4 Tips for Dealing With Numbness and Tingling in MS

There is no magic bullet, but you can get some relief

Pyjama feet on blue floor
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Anybody with multiple sclerosis (MS) who suffers from numbness, tingling, and/or burning knows that these symptoms can make life miserable. It can make walking or driving difficult, sex loses its appeal if the genital region is affected, and the sensation can negatively affect sleep.

It not only can be physically annoying or even downright painful, but it can also wear you down in other ways. Emotionally, the numbness constantly reminds you that you have MS, that your body is not working properly, and that your symptoms might get worse in the future.

Mentally, it can be difficult to keep your mind on a complicated task or follow a lively conversation when your extremities feel like they are on fire.

You may be wondering how to stop numbness and tingling if you have MS. While there is no cure, it is possible to ease your numbness and tingling. It is worth trying different methods—perhaps even layering several different approaches—to find some incremental relief. Check out the following four tips, below. 

1. De-Stress

Your sensory symptoms may get worse when you're stressed. In fact, just thinking about a stressful situation from your past can be enough to ratchet tingling in your feet.

Try taking a break from your stress. If you can find time to turn off that part of your brain that has you worried about finances, wondering how you are going to get everything done, or replaying an angry conversation, your symptoms may back down a little.

One strategy is doing a mini meditation. This is not an in-depth meditation, but it involves taking one or two minutes in the middle of a stressful period to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and focus your thoughts on your breath.

Alternatively, do something that you love for at least a couple of minutes.

Listen to a podcast or your favorite song. Read a couple of pages in a fun novel. Have a cup of tea. Play a game on your phone. Go for a walk around the block. Carving out a little time for self-care every day can help you manage your anxiety.

2. Try Complementary and Alternative Medicine

There are a few complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches that have helped some people with their sensory problems. Consider some of these methods.

  • Reflexology: This is a form of massage that entails pressing on certain points on the hands and feet to promote healing.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture involves pricking the skin with needles to relieve pain. If you're worried about the risk of acupuncture stimulating your immune system (which is not desirable, as MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease), talk to your doctor.
  • Biofeedback: To reduce your stress levels, try biofeedback, which may help your numbness and tingling.
  • A new diet: It's possible that certain foods trigger your symptoms (although this is a controversial topic). The Best Bet Diet has helped some people, for instance. Work with a dietitian to strategically pinpoint the foods that exacerbate your symptoms and designs plans to minimize your intake of them. 
  • A supplement: Low levels of vitamin B12, a deficiency that is more common in people with MS, could cause sensory symptoms. Look into getting your level checked, just to be sure, and ask your doctor whether it's a good idea to take a supplement.

3. Warm Up or Cool Down

Sometimes your feet can get either very hot or very cold (especially at night) and these temperature extremes are often accompanied by a burning or tingling sensation.

To warm up your feet, try a "wrap" that is filled with some sort of beads or beans that can be heated up in the microwave and put on any body part that is chilly. You can put one on your feet and one over your shoulders and pretend that you're at a spa.

You can also stick your feet in hot water. Wearing thick socks to bed helps, too. 

Cooling down burning feet down is a little trickier. The solution can be something simple, like sticking your feet outside the sheets when you're in bed during the summer (perhaps near a fan), standing on cool bathroom tiles, or putting ice or a cold, wet washcloth on them. 

4. Use Medications 

There has been only limited success in medicating away MS-related numbness and tingling, so drugs are often considered a last resort. But if no other treatment strategies are providing you with relief, ask your doctor if one of these medications might be an option for you: Neurontin (gabapentin), Elavil (amitriptyline), or Cymbalta (duloextine). These drugs, like all drugs, do have possible side effects. However, if your numbness/tingling is truly torturing you, it may be worth trying one of these.

Of course, if your sensory symptom is new, much worse than before, or has lasted more than 24 hours, this may signal a relapse. In this case, your doctor will probably put you on a course of Solu-Medrol (after confirming a relapse with an MRI scan).

A Word From Verywell

These won't make your numbness and tingling symptoms disappear altogether, but they may help you find some degree of relief. In other words, it might bring your sensory disturbance from a severe level of "horrible, terrible, awful" to a more moderate level of "I don't like it, but I can live with it." You can also review this additional advice on how to manage these symptoms from people who have MS.

Sources:

Mackay AM, Buckingham R, Schwartz RS, Hodgkinson S, Beran RG, Cordato DJ. The effect of biofeedback as a psychological intervention in multiple sclerosis: A randomized controlled study. Int J MS Care. 2015;17(3):101-8.

Namjooyan F, Ghanavati R, Majdinasab N, Jokari S, & Janbozorgi M. Uses of complementary and alternative medicine in multiple sclerosis. J Tradit Complement Med. 2014;4(3):145-52.

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