Article Reviewed & Updated on 12/23/2022
Medical Reviewer: Kari Haberman
Have you ever experienced a tingling, prickling, or numb sensation in your foot? If so, you may be experiencing sciatica numbness in your foot.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing this condition, there are some things you can do to help reduce or stop the numbness.
In this post, we'll discuss what sciatica is, common causes of numbness in the foot, and steps you can take to relieve the symptoms. Let's get started!
Can Sciatica Cause Foot Numbness?
Harvard experts say via Harvard Health Publishing that sciatica is characterized by pain that radiates from the buttocks or lower back, down to the back of the leg, and sometimes into the foot.
This is because the sciatic nerve, which is the affected nerve in a sciatica diagnosis (the longest nerve in the body), extends from your lower spine all the way to your feet.
When this nerve becomes impinged, compressed, or irritated, it can cause pain, tingling, or numbness in your foot.
How Long Does Sciatica Foot Numbness Last?
Experts from The Johns Hopkins mentioned in an article that the numbness, tingling, and in more severe circumstances, muscular weakness in the knees or legs are all symptoms of a sciatic nerve injury.
It will take longer for numbness and weakness to go away if they are left untreated for long periods of time; with time, they may become permanent.
The length of time that sciatica numbness in your foot lasts will depend on the underlying cause.
For instance, if your sciatica is caused by a herniated disc, the numbness may last for a few weeks or months until the disc heals. However, if your sciatica is caused by degenerative disc disease, the numbness may be more long-lasting.
In some cases, the sciatic nerve becomes permanently damaged, which can lead to chronic pain and numbness. This is more likely to occur if you have diabetes or another condition that causes nerve damage.
If you have chronic sciatica, it's important to see a doctor for treatment.
What Does Sciatica Pain in Your Foot Feels Like?
Sciatica pain can feel like a dull ache, sharp pain, or burning sensation. It may be worse when you sit or stand for long periods of time, when you cough or sneeze, or when you move your back in certain ways. The pain may radiate from your low back down your leg and into your foot.
If you're experiencing sciatica numbness in your foot, the numbness may feel like a tingling, prickling, or burning sensation.
You may also have weakness in your foot or toe muscles. The numbness may get worse when you sit or stand for long periods of time, when you move your back in certain ways, or when you cough or sneeze.
The causes for these symptoms are associated with the sciatic nerve, which is being compressed. When the sciatic nerve is compressed, it can cause pain, tingling, or numbness in your foot.
There are a variety of things that can cause sciatica that may or may not result in numbness of the foot, including:
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) defines herniated disc on AANS Website as a fragment of the spinal disc that is pushed out of its original location.
It occurs when this disc, which is a gel-like shock absorber for the spine or vertebra, ruptures through a crack, rupture, or tear in its tougher outer layer.
Discs that have become herniated can happen in any spinal region. They are more often seen in the lower back (lumbar spine) but also occur in the neck area (cervical spine).
The kind of pain a person experience is related to which part of their spine is affected. A herniated disc can also induce pressure on the sciatic nerve and lead to sciatica.
Degenerative disc disease:
This is a condition that occurs when the discs in your spine begin to wear down and shrink. Spinal discs are gel-like cushions that act as a buffer between the vertebrae, which are the bones in your spinal column.
They serve as shock absorbers and allow you to move, bend, and twist naturally and also deteriorate with age for everyone.
When the discs are not adequately providing cushioning for the spine, this can result in sciatica because it puts pressure and stresses the sciatic nerve.
When the cushions surrounding the bones rub away, bone-on-bone contact can occur. This often leads to pain and additional issues, including:
- A herniated disk, also called a bulge, as discussed previously.
- Osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease.
- Paget's disease, which is a disorder that weakens bones.
- Scoliosis, where the spinal column curves to the side.
- Spinal stenosis, as discussed below.
- Spondylolisthesis, where one vertebra slips forward on top of another
- Tumors: Cancerous and noncancerous tumors can grow in the spine and compress the sciatic nerve. Although sciatica caused by a tumor is rare.
The narrowing of the spinal canal (where nerves of the spine go through) is medically termed as spinal stenosis.
It can occur in any part of the vertebrae, but the most common is the lumbar section or lower back, usually resulting in spinal compression of the sciatic nerve and causing sciatica.
Piriformis syndrome is a clinical condition in which the piriformis muscle, which is located in the buttocks, irritates or compresses the sciatic nerve. Although there are many possible causes of piriformis syndrome, the symptoms are usually the same.
People with this condition often feel pain in the buttocks that may "shoot," burn or ache down the back of their leg (similar to "sciatic" pain). Numbness in the buttocks and tingling feelings down the length of the sciatic nerve are also common.
While sciatica is most often caused by one of these conditions, it can also be caused by pregnancy, obesity, or diabetes. If you're experiencing sciatica numbness in your foot, it's important to see a doctor to rule out any serious underlying conditions.
Can Sciatica Make Your Toes Numb?
Sciatica can cause numbness in your foot, as well as in the toe, and it could even cause weakness and pain. In severe cases, sciatica can cause paralysis of the foot and toe muscles.
If you're experiencing toe numbness from sciatica, it's important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Once the etiology or the underlying cause is determined, your family doctor will recommend treatment options that may help relieve your symptoms.
Which Toes Are Affected by Sciatica?
Sciatica can affect any toe, but it most often affects the big toe. Sciatica can also cause numbness and weakness in the other toes, as well as in the foot and ankle.
Treatments that can be effective for treating sciatica numbness in the foot and calf
There are a variety of treatments that can be effective for treating sciatica numbness in the foot and calf, including:
Physical therapy exercises may help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your back and legs, that can help lessen the pressure on the sciatic nerve. If the numbness in your foot is due to pressure or impingement of the sciatic nerve, physical therapy may help to improve your symptoms.
Massage therapy can help to relieve muscle tension and spasms in the back and legs, which may help to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. Massage may also help to increase blood flow and relax the muscles, which can speed up healing.
Chiropractic adjustments may help to realign the spine and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. If sciatica numbness in your foot is caused by a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, chiropractic adjustments may be an effective treatment option.
Acupuncture is a widely known traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin. Acupuncture may help relieve pain by releasing endorphins and other chemicals in the body.
Heat or ice:
Applying heat or using ice compress to the affected area may help relieve pain and inflammation. Heat therapy dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to the area, which can help speed up healing. Ice therapy numbs the area and reduces inflammation.
To know more about heat application or ice compress therapy, read our article on Ice vs Heat for Back Pain - Which is Better?
Electrical stimulation involves the use of electrical currents to stimulate the nerves and muscles. Electrical stimulation may help to reduce pain by blocking pain signals from the sciatic nerve.
Exercises and stretches for sciatica:
Certain exercises may help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your back and legs, which can help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Learn more about the most common exercises in our blog Exercises for Sciatica - Top 5 Exercises for Sciatica Pain.
Besides exercise, you could also try stretches for sciatica pain relief. These include:
- Hamstring stretches: Hamstring stretches help to stretch the muscles in the back of the thigh, which may help to reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Piriformis stretches: The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located in the hip area. This muscle can sometimes become tight and irritate the sciatic nerve. Piriformis stretches help to stretch and loosen this muscle, which may help to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Knee to chest stretch: This stretch helps to stretch the muscles in the low back and buttocks. It also helps to lengthen the sciatic nerve.
Continue reading below to learn the step by step instructions for each of these sciatica stretches.
In some cases, a surgical intervention may be necessary to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
If sciatica numbness in your foot is caused by a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, your family doctor may recommend you to a surgeon to find ways to remove the pressure on the nerve.
This is typically only recommended for severe cases of sciatica that haven't responded to other treatments.
If you're experiencing toe numbness from sciatica, it's important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Once the underlying cause is defined, your doctor will recommend treatment options that may help relieve your symptoms.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve) may help reduce inflammation and pain.
There are also assistive devices that can help relieve sciatica symptoms, including toe numbness, such as:
Use of posture corrector:
Wearing a posture corrector may help improve your posture and take the pressure off of the sciatic nerve. This assistive device is especially helpful if your sciatica numbness is caused by poor posture.
Use of sciatic nerve support:
Using a sciatic nerve support can help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve by providing support to the low back and buttocks. This assistive device is especially helpful if your sciatica numbness is caused by a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
Use of orthotics:
Using orthotic devices such as arch supports or heel cups may help to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Arch supports are especially helpful if your sciatica numbness is exacerbated by flat feet. Heel cups, on the other hand, can help if your sciatica numbness is aggravated by the frequent use of high heels.
Use of sciatica pillow and wedge cushion:
Sleeping with a sciatica pillow between your knees may help take the pressure off of the sciatic nerve and relieve pain.
Designed by someone who suffers from scoliosis, this cushion was made to give you the comfort and support you need and deserve. It could prevent numbness in the foot, especially if your sciatica is aggravated by prolonged drivings.
The cushion can be placed on any chair, and it will elevate your hips to reduce sciatica pain.
Please keep in mind, however that use of a sciatica pillow may benefit an individual with sciatica, but it could worsen the condition of someone with lumbar spinal stenosis.
The position you sleep in can have an impact on the severity of your sciatica, particularly numbness in the foot. This is because certain positions can put more pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The best sleeping position for sciatica is usually on your side with a pillow between your knees. This sleeping position takes the pressure off of the sciatic nerve and can help to relieve pain. Sleeping on your back is also a good option if you place a pillow under your knees.
Doing regular exercises may help to improve sciatica pain over time. However, it's important to avoid any exercises that aggravate your symptoms.
If you are not sure which exercises are beneficial or safe for you to do, it is best to confer with a physical therapist or your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Use of lumbar support:
Wearing a lumbar support belt or placing a pillow behind your back may help support your spine or relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Do you sit for lengthy periods or drive long distances? Our Mesh Back Support will be a wise purchase! It's the ideal ergonomic lumbar support system for providing proper back support and alleviating back discomfort.
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If you're experiencing sciatica numbness in your foot, it's important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Once the underlying cause is determined, your doctor will recommend treatment options that may help relieve your symptoms. Treatment options may include exercises and stretches, anti-inflammatory medications, electrical stimulation, surgery, or the use of assistive devices. With proper treatment, sciatica numbness in your foot should improve.
Sciatica Numb Foot Exercises - How to Stop Numbness in Foot from Sciatica
If you're experiencing toe numbness from sciatica, there are certain exercises that may help relieve your symptoms.
The following exercises may help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your back and legs, which can help ease the pressure on the sciatic nerve:
Supine Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis muscle, which is a deep hip muscle, is the target of the supine piriformis stretch. It's frequently rigid in individuals with sciatic nerve pain and can worsen symptoms. Here's how to do it:
Step 1: Lie down on your back with both legs and feet flat on the ground and toes pointing towards each other (feet together).
Step 2: Bring your right knee closer to your chest and place your right hand on your thigh, just above your knee.
Step 3: Use your left hand and grab hold of your right ankle.
Step 4: Bring your right leg across your body towards your left side as far as you comfortably can. If you're not feeling a stretch in your right buttocks, bring your right leg closer to your chest.
Step 5: Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then return to the starting position gradually.
Step 6: Once you've completed the sets with one leg, move on to the other leg and do two to three sets.
The hamstring stretch is a common sciatica exercise that can help relieve sciatic nerve pain and, thus, numbness in the foot due to sciatica. The following instructions will help you properly execute this stretch:
Step 1: On a yoga mat, lie down on your back.
Step 2: Bend one knee while lying down on your back.
Step 3: Keep one foot flat on the floor and the other leg straight.
Step 4: Pull that extended leg toward your chest while thinking about pushing your heel towards the ceiling.
Step 5: Hold that stretch for twenty to thirty seconds and perform on both sides.
Here is a video showing how to do it, including some variations (i.e., standing hamstring stretch).
The pelvic tilt is a basic move that can help stretch your lower back and hamstrings, which can help loosen tightness in the sciatic nerve. It can also relieve tension in the muscles which aggravates the pain and contribute to sciatica toe numbness. Here's how to do it:
Step 1: Start by lying down on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Place your hand on top of your stomach, just below your navel.
Step 3: As you exhale, slowly tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back to the floor.
Step 4: Hold this position for five seconds, then relax as you inhale.
( Want more stretching videos? Try our Two Part Video Series here )
Sciatica toe numbness can be a frustrating symptom of sciatica. However, there are treatments that may help relieve your pain and discomfort. Be sure to consult with your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options.
Once the underlying cause is determined, your doctor will recommend treatment options that may help relieve your symptoms.
In some cases, toe numbness from sciatica can be relieved with conservative treatments such as physical therapy, massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, heat or ice, exercises, anti-inflammatory medications, and assistive devices.
Surgery is typically only recommended if conservative treatments are unsuccessful.
If you have toe numbness from sciatica, talk to your doctor about treatment options that may help relieve your pain and discomfort.
To know more about sciatica stretches to help relieve toe numbness, read our article on 7 Easy Stretches and Exercises to Ease Sciatica Leg Pain.
This content is strictly the opinion of the author and not necessarily of medical professionals. It is not planned to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or learned on this website. Be sure to seek the advice of your family physician or other qualified health providers with any questions or thoughts you may have regarding any medical condition.
If you think you may have a medical or surgical emergency, call your family doctor or dial 911 immediately. Reliance on any information or ideas provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Sciatica toe numbness can be a frustrating symptom of sciatica. However, there are treatments that may help relieve your pain and discomfort. ALWAYS talk to your primary care provider about your symptoms and treatment options.