Does numbness in my back mean I'm about to have a stroke?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2009
A fellow caregiver asked...

Does having numbness in your arms, legs and back mean you are risking a stroke?

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Having arm, leg, and back numbness could mean you are having a stroke.  A large determinant is whether one side of the body is affected, or the whole body.  If the numbness is contained to one side, this could certainly mean you are having a stroke - in this case, most likely a small stroke in a part of the brain called the "thalamus". 

However, if the numbness is on both sides of the body, it is very unlikely to be a stroke.  A spinal cord lesion or a peripheral nerve problem are more likely.

It sounds like you should see a neurologist, and soon.  Determining which of these scenarios is at work is critically important in trying to fix the situation before it could get worse.