Numbness can be described as a loss of feeling. It can occur in one or more parts of your body at the same time. It can affect your body along one nerve, on one side of the body, or less commonly on both sides of the body.
Numbness sometimes occurs with other sensations, such as a prickling (pins and needles) or even tingling or burning.
The shins are sometimes affected by numbness. Most of the time, numbness is not something to worry about.
Numbness in the shins might present itself in one or more of the following ways:
- loss of sensation (unable to feel temperature or pain on your shins)
- loss of coordination (difficulty walking or moving your leg muscles and feet)
- pins-and-needles sensation
Sciatica is a condition caused by irritation of the body’s longest nerve, called the sciatic nerve. Irritation of the sciatic nerve affects a person’s ability to control and feel their legs.
The condition usually causes pain, but can also make the legs feel weak or numb. Sometimes the back and the buttocks also feel painful, numb, or weak.
Shin splints (sometimes called medial tibial stress syndrome) is a condition that causes pain along the front of the lower leg at the shin bone. Most of the pain occurs between the shin and the ankle.
Athletes and other people who regularly participate in heavy physical activity are more likely to develop shin splints than those who do not. Pain caused by shin splints feels dull and achy. It can also sometimes feel like numbness.
Pinched nerves commonly occur when a large amount of pressure is applied to a nerve by bones, muscle, cartilage, or tendons. The pressure can disrupt the nerve’s normal function. Sometimes this leads to pain, tingling, weakness, or numbness.
While the sciatic nerve commonly causes shin numbness when irritated, many other nerves in the body, like those in the hip, can cause a similar sensation.
A herniated disk can occur when a disk in your spine slips out of place. This causes pain and discomfort as the disks push together awkwardly.
This condition can also cause numbness down your legs, usually down one side of your body, if the slipped disk compresses one of your spinal nerves.
People with type 2 diabetes often experience pain, numbness, and tingling in the lower legs and feet. This happens when the body’s blood sugar levels have been elevated for a long time.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis is a condition that affects the body’s central nervous system. Nerves become damaged, and that makes it challenging for the brain to send messages to the rest of the body.
Most people with multiple sclerosis find it more challenging to walk over time. One reason is numbness that develops in the legs and feet.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that causes many systematic problems in the body. The symptoms of lupus may affect different parts of the body at different times. This includes the legs.
Strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain bleeds and ruptures, or when the supply of blood to the brain gets blocked in another way.
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States. One of the major symptoms of stroke is numbness or weakness. This usually affects one side of the body, including the face and an arm or the face and a leg.
If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 911 immediately.
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease can occur when plaque on the walls of blood vessels builds up, causing them to narrow. It often affects people with type 2 diabetes.
One major symptom is numbness, tingling, or pins and needles in the lower legs and feet. This sensation is often accompanied by pain in the same place when walking or exercising.
Brain tumors are a serious condition that can affect how the brain communicates with the body. One major symptom of a brain tumor is numbness in one or more parts of the body. Brain tumors are a serious condition that require medical attention.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Restless leg syndrome may cause unpleasant sensations such as numbness in the shins. Often, these sensations are accompanied by a powerful urge to move the legs. Besides being uncomfortable, RLS usually interferes with a person’s sleep, causing fatigue.
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for cancer and tumors. However, it can also cause numbness in various parts of the body, including the shins.
Chronic idiopathic peripheral neuropathy
Neuropathy occurs when nerve damage interferes with the correct functioning of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). When the cause of the nerve damage can’t be determined, it’s known as idiopathic neuropathy.
Neuropathy causes odd sensations in various parts of the body, often the feet, shins, and hands. A lack of treatment can cause long-term nerve damage.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder with an unclear cause that causes muscle pain, numbness and fatigue, among other issues. This condition tends to arise after major events like stress, surgery, or trauma.
Approximately 1 in 4 people with fibromyalgia experience tingling in the legs and feet, or hands and arms.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome can cause numbness in the shins, although it typically affects the sole of the foot. The condition results from repeated pressure that compresses or damages the posterior tibial nerve.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is often caused by other conditions, such as:
Effective treatments for numb shins vary depending on the cause. In most cases, numbness in the shins will get better on its own.
In the meantime, here are some common treatments that should bring relief:
- rest (especially if you have an injury)
- ice or heat (when the cause is a pinched nerve)
- Ibuprofen (to reduce inflammation)
- exercise (for pinched nerves)
- massage (to reduce feelings of numbness and ease symptoms of pinched nerves)
It’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing severe pain or suspect you’ve had a stroke or may have a tumor.
One sign you should see a doctor for help is if home treatments have not alleviated your symptoms. Some common medical treatments for numbness in the shins include:
- surgery (to remove tumors, repair herniated disks, and more)
- medications (such as gabapentin or pregabalin used in peripheral neuropathies)
- physical therapy
See a doctor if your shin numbness does not resolve in a week. Seek emergency attention or call 911 right away if you notice the following signs of a stroke:
- paralysis in any part of your body
- sudden and severe numbness or weakness, especially if it’s affecting only one side of your body
- trouble speaking or understanding speech
- loss of balance or dizziness
- severe headache or vision problems
Immediate medical attention is important to prevent long-term damage.
Numbness in the shins is something most people experience at some point in their lives. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about. But in other cases, shin numbness may be a sign of a more serious problem.
See a doctor to understand what’s causing the numbness in your shins, and what you can do about it.