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Sports Medicine

Tingling sensation in the legs....

07/25/2000

Question:

I have been having tingling sensation in my both of my legs. Yesterday, I felt the tingling sensation laterally from my knees down to my ankles. It last for hours (4) while I was sitting during work. And today, the tingling sensation radiate up to my thighs. Basically, I feel it around both of my thighs. What could cause this sensation and what can I do to avoid it? Thank you.

Answer:

A tingling sensation in both legs could be due to a problem involving either nerves or circulation. You didn`t mention your age, but the older you are (beyond age 40), the more likely you are to have "degenerative" or age-related changes in your lumbar spine (lower back) such as disc protrusions or bone spurs, either or both of which could cause nerve irritation. The fact you feel the tingling when sitting would make the possibility of a central disc bulge in your lumbar spine - which could then press on nerves going down into both legs - more likely. However, an alternative possibility is that there may be a pinching of the superficial cutaneous (skin) nerve located in the groin crease on both sides, which is where your thigh meets your abdomen. This nerve is more likely to become pinched if you are overweight and/or wear tight clothes. If this "groin" nerve is pinched, though, the tingling would not go down past your knees into the shins.... A third possibility would be pressure on the sciatic nerve, going from the buttock into the thigh on either side. This could occur if you`ve recently lost weight, resulting in less "padding" to the nerve, or alternatively, to sitting on a chair which is too hard/firm. Fourthly, a problem involving the spinal cord could cause these tingling sensations, but would usually cause additional symptoms such as difficulty controlling your bladder, which you didn`t mention. A final possibility involving the nervous system is an unusual condition where the nerves can become inflamed or irritated spontaneously, that is, without any clear reason why. This condition, though, would usually cause tingling symptoms in your arms and hands as well as your legs.

A problem involving the arterial circulation to your legs would be unusual, but more likely if you are a smoker. Compression of the blood flow into your legs when sitting would be most likely to occur only if you`ve previously undergone an arterial bypass grafting procedure in the groin region to restore deficient circulation to your legs, and you didn`t mention anything like this.

You are best advised to consult with your physician, who will ask you additional questions about these symptoms, as well as about any pertinent medical history you have, conduct a physical examination to determine if your problem does indeed involve nerves, and to also determine if any testing such as lumbar spine X-rays, a spinal MRI, and/or nerve testing (electromyography and nerve conduction studies - EMG/NCS) would be appropriate, to clarify the diagnosis before deciding on a plan of treatment.

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Response by:

Brian L Bowyer, MD Brian L Bowyer, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University