- Tingling in feet may be caused by a pinched nerve, which creates the sensation of pins and needles.
- Tingling can also be a sign of diabetes, B12 deficiency, chemotherapy medications, and more.
- You may also experience tingling in the feet as a side effect of consuming too much alcohol.
- Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more stories.
Tingling in the feet is a common sensation often described as a feeling of "pins and needles." If you experience tingling in your feet, you might also experience numbness, weakness, or pain.
In some cases, tingling in the feet is nothing to be concerned about and can be resolved by switching positions. But tingling feet can also be a sign of more serious conditions that need medical attention.
Here are eight causes of tingling in the feet and how to treat them.
1. Temporarily pinching a nerve in the foot
This is a sensation most people are familiar with, often referred to as your foot "falling asleep."
This happens most commonly from crossing one's legs for too long or otherwise remaining in a certain position that puts strain on a nerve in the foot or leg, says Juliann Paolicchi, MD, Director in Neurology at Northwell Health.
How to treat it: This type of paresthesia, or tingling, usually resolves when you change positions because you are no longer putting pressure on the nerve.
This nerve damage can cause burning, tingling, or numbness in the feet and affects up to 70% of all patients with diabetes.
Blood sugar levels that remain persistently too high or too low can damage the nerves in the feet and cause them to not work properly.
Other symptoms of diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Slowly healing cuts and sores
- Extreme thirst
- Vision changes
How to treat it: Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is treated by controlling blood sugar levels and taking oral medications for the neuropathy symptoms, Roussel says.
3. B12 deficiency
Certain vitamin deficiencies, particularly a B12 deficiency, can cause tingling in the hands and feet, Roussel says.
Other symptoms of a B12 deficiency include:
- Digestive issues
- An enlarged liver
How to treat it: You can treat the condition by increasing your levels of B12. You can do this by taking supplements, getting B12 shots from your doctor,, or by adding more B12-rich foods to your diet. Some foods that naturally contain B12 are:
4. A pinched nerve in the lower back
A pinch in one of the sciatic nerves that run from your lower back down your legs can cause radiating pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs and feet.
There can be a few different causes of a pinched nerve in the back, including an issue with the bone or cartilage surrounding the nerve, like with a herniated disk, or an issue with the muscles or tendons that have caused the tissue around the nerve to compress.
"A lot of times I'll see people come in and they say I'm having numbness in my feet and we run some tests and see the problem is actually coming from the back and not from the feet," McEneaney says.
Other symptoms of a pinched sciatic nerve include:
- Moderate or severe pain in the lower back, buttocks, and down the legs
- Numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs and feet
- Loss of bladder control
How to treat it: Treatment options include:
- Medications like prescription muscle relaxers or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Spinal injections
- Physical therapy
5. Chemotherapy medications
Tingling in the feet is a common side effect of chemotherapy. This is because when chemotherapy attacks and kills cancer cells, it can damage nerve cells in the process, McEneaney says.
- Patches or creams that contain numbing medicine
- Prescription steroids
- Relaxation therapy
- Electric nerve stimulation
- Physical therapy
As the uterus grows during pregnancy, it can put pressure on the nerves that run down the legs, causing a pins and needles sensation, Roussel says.
Tingling in the feet usually goes away after you give birth, but if the sensation worsens or is accompanied by weakness or swelling, reach out to your doctor. These could be signs of a more serious condition, like preeclampsia, that requires treatment.
How to treat it: According to Roussel, you can relieve pressure on the nerves and reduce tingling by:
- Elevating your feet
- Frequently changing positions
- Staying hydrated
7. Excessive alcohol consumption
Heavy, long-term alcohol consumption can cause damage to the peripheral nerves. In fact, an estimated 25% to 66% of people who chronically misuse alcohol experience peripheral neuropathy, Roussel says. Alcohol misuse is generally defined as more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Symptoms of nerve damage from alcohol consumption usually develop slowly and can include:
- Weakness in arms and legs
- Decreased sensation in feet, toes, hands, and fingers
- Loss of balance and unsteadiness when walking
- Lack of coordination
How to treat it: Treatment involves controlling alcohol use, as well as efforts to mitigate symptoms, like wearing compression socks,Roussel says.
8. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (TTS) is caused by compression to the tibial nerve, which enters the bottom of the foot on the inside of the ankle, Roussel says. This can result in pain, tingling, numbness, or burning in the ankle, heel, or foot.
There are a few different causes of TTS, including an injury, like an ankle sprain. People with flat feet are also more at risk for developing TTS because a lack of arch support in the foot can put strain and compression on the tibial nerve.
How to treat it: Treatment options for TTS include:
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
- Wearing supportive shoes and orthotics
- Surgery to decompress the nerve
When to see a doctor
If you are experiencing tingling in the feet for more than a week, consult with your primary care provider who can refer you to a specialist if necessary.
"It's important to get it checked out and find out what the underlying cause is," McEneaney says. "Sometimes it can be reversible and very easily fixed, but if you let it go too long, then it might not be."
Tingling in the feet is a common sensation that can have many different causes, including temporarily pinching a nerve, diabetes, or a vitamin deficiency.
If you are experiencing tingling in the feet that lasts more than a week, reach out to your primary care provider who can help determine the cause and refer you to a specialist if necessary.