When to See a Doctor About Numbness, Tingling, and Weakness

Lots of things can cause numbness, tingling, and sometimes weakness in parts of your body. Many of them aren't serious. Your leg can "fall asleep" if you stay in one position too long. If you spend too much time using your phone, you might get these sensations in your hands or forearms.

But if these symptoms last a long time, get worse, or interfere with your daily life, you should see a doctor about them. If they happen suddenly, are intense, or you develop them just after an injury, you need medical help right away.

What Can Cause Tingling, Numbness, and Weakness?

Some of the things that can cause one or more of these symptoms are:

When to See Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms come and go or gradually get worse.
  • The symptoms seem related to certain activities.
  • You're dizzy or have muscle spasms.
  • You have a rash.
  • Symptoms in your legs get worse as you walk.
  • Your symptoms affect both sides of your body.
  • You feel numbness in a specific part of your arm or leg, such as your fingers or toes.

When to Call 911

If you feel numbness or tingling soon after a head, neck, or back injury, get medical help right away. It's also an emergency if you lose consciousness even for a little while.

Someone should call 911 for you if:

  • You lose muscle control.
  • You're having trouble walking, talking, or thinking.
  • You can't move one side of your face.
  • The numbness or tingling started suddenly.
  • You suddenly feel weak or have severe pain.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • The numbness is spreading in your body.
  • You're numb in your entire arm or leg, one whole side of your body, or everywhere below a certain level (like your chest).
  • You have a sudden or serious headache.
  • You lose control over your bladder or bowels.

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What to Expect

To find out what's causing your symptoms, your doctor will ask you detailed questions about your medical history. They'll ask you about any injuries you've had and whether you've had recent illnesses or vaccinations. And they may ask about your lifestyle habits to see if you're at higher risk for certain health problems.

Give them as much information as possible about your symptoms and any medications you take, including over-the-counter ones.

Your doctor will also examine you. Depending on what they think might be causing your symptoms, they might order blood tests, toxicology screenings, or a test that uses electrodes to see how well your nerves are working. They may also order imaging tests, like X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans. They may also do a spinal tap to check for problems with your nervous system.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 14, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Medical School: “Numbness or Tingling.”

Massachusetts General Hospital: "Numbness and tingling."

Mount Sinai Hospital: "Numbness and Tingling."

Mayo Clinic: “Symptoms: Numbness.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Numbness: When to Call the Doctor.”

Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine: "What is cell phone elbow, and what should we tell our patients?"

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Numbness or Tingling."

Norton Healthcare: "Ongoing numbness, tingling or weakness could mean a spinal compression in your neck."

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