Lower Leg Tingling at Night
Q: I often have an uncomfortable tingling sensation between my knee and ankle
that gets worse when I'm trying to fall asleep. Sometimes it's so overwhelming
that I'm up half the night fidgeting! I haven't done anything to injure my leg,
and I'm so tired of waking up exhausted. Is there anything I can do to make
it through the night pain-free?
Dr. Donnica: What you describe could be nocturnal (night-time) leg cramps.
This can often be treated with a routine of stretching exercises before bed or
a medication called quinine. It is possible, however, that you may have something
called radiculopathy, which may have many different causes. The term radiculopathy
describes pain, weakness, numbness or abnormal sensations felt through a part
of the body controlled by a specific nerve or group of nerves. Severe muscle spasms
or vertebral disc abnormalities (e.g. "slipped discs" or spondylolisthesis)
are possible causes. "Lumbar radiculopathy" refers to irritation of
the nerve or nerves leaving the lower spine involving the hips, legs, feet and
toes. This requires evaluation by your physician. S/he will do a thorough physical
examination focusing on your reflexes and peripheral nervous system and may want
to order x-rays or a diagnostic MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). If you have
radiculopathy, treatment will depend upon the diagnosis, but may involve anti-inflammatory
medications, rest, physical therapy, muscle relaxants, and in some cases, surgery.
The tingling you are experiencing may also indicate something called "peripheral
neuropathy." Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage of the peripheral nerves,
which send information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of
the body. It may be caused by diseases of the nerves or as the result of systemic
illnesses such as diabetes or nutritional deficiencies. There are many other
causes as well, including everything from mechanical pressure or an injury you
weren't aware of, to certain medications or toxic exposures, to autoimmune diseases
such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Many cases remain a mystery. Since treatment
depends upon the specific diagnosis, you must see your physician for a complete
Created: 4/3/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.