“Early MS can often cause numbness and tingling below the waist,” says Mitzi J. Williams, MD, clinical neurologist with Morehouse School of Medicine, an MS specialist and clinical advisor for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

“These symptoms are often related to lesions or damage in the spinal cord.”

Branching from the spinal cord are nerves that continue branching further into smaller nerves, supplying all the skeletal muscle cells with the electrochemical impulses needed to create movement. Impulses for movement originate in the brain.

Multiple sclerosis is when the body attacks the myelin sheaths that protectively surround nerves.

This disrupts the communication signals between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. The nerves may become permanently damaged.

When nerves are damaged—either temporarily or permanently—tingling and numbness can be the result.

The area that the patient feels the tingling and numbness isn’t always where the damage is.

The damage may be at the spinal cord, while the sensation of the tingling or numbness may be at some point below the waist, such as mid upper leg, the lower leg or somewhere in the foot.

Different Patterns

“The numbness can occur in several different patterns,” says Dr. Williams.

“It can start in one leg and spread up to the waist or one side of the body over a few days.

“It can start in both feet and spread up the legs to the waist or the chest.

“People often report that these symptoms start in the foot and spread over several days to a week.”

Numbness or tingling, or a pins and needles feeling, that spreads – is never normal and warrants a prompt visit to a doctor.

Localized numbness, tingling or a prickly sensation may simply mean that a nerve has been locally traumatized.

Bear in mind that the absence of spreading does not rule out multiple sclerosis. “MS symptoms do often spread, but can also occur suddenly,” says Dr. Williams.

“I would say if there was a recent injury, it would be reassuring.”

For example, you may have recently kicked at a heavy bag and jangled up a nerve in your big toe.

For the next several days you feel a fuzzy, tingly or numb sensation on the bottom of your toe every time you walk. It should subside in several days. ]

It should not spread up the leg, let alone to the waist.

Numbness and tingling, or prickly sensations below or above the waist, aren’t always early signs of multiple sclerosis, either.

But this symptom means something is definitely wrong and requires medical attention to get to the cause.

Mitzi Williams, MD

Dr. Williams is author of “MS Made Simple: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis.” She is a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


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