Numbness is a horrible feeling when it doesn't feel under your control. Most of us have experienced lying awkwardly or sleeping on an arm to wake up and find numb fingers but we know as soon as we move we can a few pins and needles and slowly the full feeling returns. But what if it didn't?

What causes numbness?

Typically, numbness is caused by a lack of circulation to a nerve, usually due to direct compression. However numbness can also occur because of nearby inflammation or swelling that affects how a nerve might function. In an arm, this will often be due to a problem in your neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist. In your legs the problem will usually stem from low back, buttocks, knee or ankle. Very rarely, you might experience numbness in other areas such as your chest or elsewhere on your torso. Where you experience the numbness (and it's amazing how precise we can be) tells us a huge amount about where the problem is.

What can I do about my numbness?

The first approach should be to identify anything you do which aggravates your numbness - and avoid it. If you can find any position which provides you temporary relief, use this regularly throughout the day, this should reduce any inflammatory process gradually. Try applying cold (over clothing) for 10 minutes to see if it gives you any relief. If it does, repeat this with 10 minute gaps, if it doesn't or makes anything worse, stop immediately.

What next?

This is where we come in. If you've suffered with numbness for more than a couple of days and there's no sign of it easing up, we really need to work out where the problem is coming from and provide a tailored treatment and home exercise plan to sort the problem out. Unfortunately, the longer it's left the longer it usually takes to relieve.