Tingling or numbness in your buttocks that lasts just a few minutes after sitting on a hard chair for an extended period is not uncommon and not usually a cause for concern. If the numbness is ongoing or accompanied by other symptoms, such as leg or back pain, a visit to your doctor is in order. Numbness in the buttocks may be caused by a medical condition, such as piriformis syndrome or a pinched nerve.
Numbness that comes on suddenly or is accompanied by the loss of bladder or bowel control or difficulty breathing may indicate a serious medical problem. Call 911 or head to the nearest emergency department.
A number of conditions can cause numbness in the buttocks. These conditions can range from a pinched nerve or fracture in your spine to more complex conditions such as fibromyalgia or different types of arthritis.
Here is a list of conditions that can cause numbness in your buttocks.
Sciatica is pain along the sciatic nerve path. It’s usually caused by compression of the nerve root from a herniated disk or bone spurs. The compression can happen within or outside your spinal canal and usually in the lumbar spine. Numbness and pain are common symptoms.
Sciatica pain can radiate to any part of the nerve, from the buttock down the back of your leg and below your knee. The pain is usually described as a burning or stabbing. You may also experience:
- low back pain
- leg numbness or weakness
- pain that worsens when coughing
Piriformis syndrome is considered a rare neuromuscular disorder, but research suggests that it’s often overlooked because it causes similar symptoms as other more common conditions, such as sciatica or a slipped disc. It’s estimated that 6 percent of people diagnosed with low back pain actually have piriformis syndrome.
It occurs when the piriformis muscle, a narrow muscle in the buttocks, irritates or compresses the sciatic nerve. Other symptoms include:
- pain that runs down one or both legs
- numbness and tingling that extends down the leg
- pain in the buttocks or legs that gets worse with activity or prolonged sitting
Cauda equina syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome is a serious condition that occurs when a bundle of nerves in the lower part of your spinal cord called, cauda equina, are compressed. These nerves are responsible for the sending and receiving of messages to and from your pelvis, legs, and feet. Cauda equina syndrome can cause incontinence and permanent paralysis.
It is most commonly caused by a herniated disk in the lumbar spine, but can also be caused by other spinal conditions that compress the nerves, such as stenosis, spinal tumors, and trauma or complications from spinal surgery.
Other symptoms of cauda equina include:
- numbness in the buttocks, groin, or inner thighs (saddle anesthesia)
- pain or weakness in one or both legs
- sudden bladder issues, such as incontinence or inability to urinate
- sudden loss of bowel control
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical treatment. Urgent surgery is usually required to reduce the risk of permanent damage.
Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that mainly affects the vertebrae, but can also affect other parts of your body, often your eyes. As the disease progresses, some vertebrae may fuse, causing the spine to be less flexible. It can also affect the ribs and make it hard to breathe. Symptoms usually develop between the ages of 17 and 45, and it affects more men than women.
There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but there are treatments available to help slow progression of the disease and manage your symptoms. Early symptoms may include:
- dull pain in the lower back and buttocks
- pain and stiffness that’s worse in the morning and during the night
- mild fever
- loss of appetite
Over time, pain becomes persistent and may spread to the ribs and up the spine to the neck.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that is characterized by chronic widespread muscle pain. The condition affects 2 percent of the population. The cause of the condition remains unknown, but it’s more common in women, and rheumatic disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are known risk factors.
Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- numbness and tingling
- joint stiffness
- extreme fatigue
- difficulty sleeping
- concentration issues
Numbness in the buttocks is often accompanied by other symptoms. Here’s a look at what some of these symptoms might mean.
Numbness in buttocks, groin, and legs
This combination of symptoms is referred to as saddle paresthesia and may be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, which requires urgent treatment and may cause paralysis.
Numbness in buttocks when sitting
Sitting in the same position too long can sometimes cause numbness in the buttocks. This should only last a few minutes and improve when you get up and move around. Piriformis syndrome can also cause pain or numbness that is worse when sitting.
Numbness in buttocks after epidural
Numbness in the buttocks after receiving an epidural during delivery is rare and affects less than 1 percent of women. The specific cause of the numbness is not known, but researchers believe that it may be caused by perforation of the cutaneous nerve in the pelvis during delivery, buttock compression, or a lack of blood flow to the nerves caused by being immobile for an extended period after receiving the epidural.
Numbness in buttocks, legs, and feet
Sciatica, piriformis syndrome, and herniated disks can cause numbness in the buttocks, legs, and feet. The pain usually radiates along the sciatic nerve.
Treatment for numbness in the buttocks may vary depending on the cause of your symptoms. Most of the time, numbness is the result of a compressed nerve, though different conditions can cause pressure on a nerve.
Piriformis syndrome, sciatica, herniated disk
The goal of treatment for these conditions is to improve blood flow and reduce inflammation around the trapped nerve. Treatment may include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
- applying cold and heat
- physical therapy
- oral or epidural corticosteroids
Surgery may be required if conservative treatment options don’t relieve your symptoms or if the nerve compression causes cauda equine syndrome.
Ankylosing spondylitis treatment depends on the severity of the condition and complications, and may change as the disease progression. It includes:
- biologic medications, such as secukinumab (Cosentyx) and adalimumab (Humira)
- physical therapy
Pain management and self-care to reduce stress are the main treatments for fibromyalgia. This can include:
- over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription pain medication
- fibromyalgia medication, such as pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- antianxiety medications
Any numbness that comes on suddenly or doesn’t resolve after getting up and moving around should be evaluated by your doctor. If you experience a loss of bladder or bowel control or lose feeling in your face, arms, or legs, call 911.
A brief period of tingling or numbness in your buttocks after sitting for a long time that resolves after you get up and move around is probably not a cause for concern. Numbness that can’t be explained and isn’t relieved by changing positions may be caused by a compressed nerve in your spine or another underlying medical condition.