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Legs Or Arms Falling Asleep
My Arms Fall Asleep, But I Can't
Many people complain of their arms and/or legs falling asleep, or
developing numbness and/or tingling. The medical term for these altered feelings
of the limbs is paresthesia. Although paresthesia's can happen at any time, they
seem most typical at rest such as
sitting, driving or particularly sleeping.
Usually, but not always, numbness and tingling
of an arm or leg is representative of a type of neuropathy or nerve entrapment.
Other causes include stroke, multiple sclerosis, hyperventilation, anxiety,
vitamin deficiencies, and anemia's. In my practice, the most common form of limb
numbness is that of nerve compression either at the
spinal level, or in the shoulder, pelvis or limb muscles directly.
Some common forms of limb numbness diagnosis are carpal tunnel syndrome,
thoracic outlet, ulnar neuritis, disk herniation, spinal stenosis, sciatica, and
piriformis syndrome. There is considerable dispute as to why or how we develop
these conditions. Often there are several factors that lead up to these problems
in the limbs.
Repetitive work is often a factor in limb paresthesia, and the probable
mechanism is that of spinal disk compression of the neck (arms) or low back
(legs) and/or muscle shortening of the muscles of the shoulder and forearm
(arms) and buttocks and hamstrings (legs).
Injuries of the spine can cause muscle, disk and
even bone changes that can lead to nerve entrapment of the spine or limb
muscles, much like in repetitive injuries. Anxiety and depression can contribute
to chronic muscle spasm of the neck, spine and limbs, and is often a
complicating factor as people in pain start to get more anxious when their pains
do not go away or improve. Sleeping and sitting positions can really be a
problem as can day to day wear and tear. B12, folate and iron deficiencies can
easily contribute to pain and paresthesia of the limbs, as can certain
medication such as chemotherapy or heavy
metal poisoning. Medical conditions that attack the nervous or
musculoskeletal system (MS, ALS, Rheumatoid Arthritis) can also cause a variety
Fortunately, for many of us, muscle shortening of the spine and/or limbs
will be a very common cause that can be improved with a variety of therapies
including physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy and, of course,
stretching. It should be mentioned that limb numbness or tingling should not be
ignored, and deserves medical assessment.
As always, keep long and strong.
G. Blair Lamb MD, C.C.F.P.
Pain and Rehabilitation Consultant
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