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Physical Rehabilitation Medicine/sudden numbness and tingling in various body parts


Hi there! I'm a 22 yr old (normally healthy) female. Yesterday, about an hour after I woke up, I noticed my fingertips on both hands were tingling and numb. Within an hour, both hands were tingling and numb, with some parts of my left arm. I was terrified, but I had to go to work (waitressing) and didn't want to be a hypochondriac. By the end of my shift, the tingling in my hands had subsided a bit, but stuff still didn't feel quite right. I also noticed by right foot having some of the sensations as well.

I do have a history of chronic back pain (nothing really diagnosed, just broken down facet joints from years of dancing, and constant pain in my L3 and SI joints). I haven't had an injury lately (although I did slip and fall 3 nights ago, but I only have some bruising on my knees, and I didn't feel any particular unusual pain afterwards). However, my back and neck do feel overall more ache-y and pained, though it could easily be stress-related due to finals week in college, hunched over studying a lot, etc. OR it could be something else...

This morning, I woke up and so far, there's only slight numbness in my hands and arms, although I do notice my right foot more prominently tingling. I went to the bathroom and within about 7 seconds of sitting down, my right foot started tingling as if I had been sitting there for an hour. I have no shooting pain down my legs or any weird headaches or blurred vision, etc, but I am extremely worried about what this could mean. I'm always extremely cautious about my back, and the fact that it's slightly hurting more, coupled with extremity numbness does not make me feel great about my current state!

I understand that going to the doctor is easiest, but after 3 years of going to doctors for my back pain--that still goes undiagnosed--I'm a bit hesitant.

Thank you!

Hi Barbara,
Sorry about my delay in answering your questions.

It sure sounds like tight muscles compressing nerves to your arms.  The combination of waitressing and bent over studying sounds like an underlying stress plus the recent fall.  The feet may be from the back.  You are young and that's a good thing.  You need to take the time to find a good PT or chiropractor who will work with your body, hands on, to help you.  Another possible source of help is a good Massage therapist.  Finding the right help is both key and can be difficult.  Look on therapists websites or ask about the years of work, what continuing education they have studied, how much time they spend directly working with a client.  You want one on one time, not someone supervising and treating multiple clients at once.  

If a doctor can't see anything wrong on x-ray or MRI that's also good news.  Muscle tension isn't going to show on an imaging study.

It is determined by feel and by knowing what is supposed to move and by how much.  If your body can't support itself easily in a "good position"  then muscle tension is likely hiding you in a "bad position".

Take a look at some of the self help in my website.

I wish you well.  Be persistent and detailed about finding the help you need.


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Rachel Katz, PT, SEP


I have expertise working with recovery from car accidents, RSD/CRPS, neck and back pain and chronic pain. I can answer questions about pain that is not responding to expected patterns of recovery. I can address pain issues that are associated with traumatic events, and veteran associated pain issues. If you have had abuse or periods of significant stress in your life, your pain issues may be more complicated. I authored A Consumer Guide for Recovery from Car Accidents which discusses many aspects of injury recovery as all as specific detail about PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and protective involuntary muscle spasm. The link is: I can't answer questions regarding pain medications, or some specifics related to surgical interventions.


I have over 30 years experience as a Physical Therapy clinician. I taught swimming in Michigan and skiing in Aspen. I have experience in analyzing movement patterns and muscle control. I treat all areas of pain in the body including headaches, neck pain, back pain, shoulder injuries, plantar fasciitis, nerve compression, and knee pain. I have had personal experience with chronic pain, RSD, car accident injuries, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Muscle spasm and pain is a common component of injury and response to traumatic stress. Posture patterns and habits of how your body is often used can also contribute to pain. Restoration of movement and the senses that enable you to feel it are key. Rachel developed and implemented a stress reduction program for inmates within the Boulder County jail's drug and alcohol recovery program in 2005-2006 based on trauma healing principles from Dr. Peter Levine.

Rachel holds a BS in PT from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She has over 30 years experience as a clinician. She has over 1500 hours of post graduate continuing education in many Manual Therapy and Exercise approaches. She completed her training in Somatic Experiencing under Dr. Peter Levine in 2000. This 3 year program trains therapists in treating traumatic stress conditions. Rachel has developed a body of work integrating her training and unique insights into complex pain issues. She is the developer and instructor for Sensory-Motor Manual Therapy, which is a State approved 2 day work shop for Massage Therapists through the Boulder College of Massage Therapy.

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