When you're trying to take care of business in the bathroom, ever notice that your leg or foot falls asleep?
We spoke to Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist, to understand why your gams go numb and tingly on the toilet, plus ways to prevent these pesky "pins and needles."
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Why Your Legs Fall Asleep on the Toilet
"This happens when we strain to push during a bowel movement, increasing pressure within the abdomen and raising the spinal column's pressure," Dr. Sonpal says. "This pressure can sometimes cause the spinal discs to move against nerves in the spine, leading to numbness, weakness and tingling" in the legs and feet, he explains.
And you're more likely to lose feeling in your lower extremities when you practice poor posture.
"Sitting on the toilet in an awkward position can compress nerves or blood vessels, resulting in the pins and needles sensation," Dr. Sonpal says.
Slumping (read: huddled over your phone when you're on the throne) is a common culprit.
"Most people tend to hunch over during a bowel movement, which hinders blood flow to the nerves in your pelvis (these nerves also stretch down to your feet, explaining why someone might feel the tingling sensation even in their toes)," he explains.
What's more, this pins-and-needles problem just gets worse if you camp out on the toilet for too long, Dr. Sonpal says. So, if you're struggling with constipation, and your poop isn't passing quickly, you might notice numbness in your lower body as time ticks away on the toilet.
How to Prevent Pins and Needles in Your Legs
While pins and needles on the john isn't something to stress over, there are ways to tamp down the tingling in your legs and feet when on the toilet.
If you’re experiencing persistent numbness, you should seek the help of a medical professional, as this could be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
1. Don’t Hunch
"Hovering in a hunched over position can be hard on the pelvic muscles, preventing the colon from fully relaxing and passing stool effortlessly," Dr. Sonpal says.
And the longer it takes for you to go, the more likely you'll experience the tingling in your legs.
"The best way to prevent losing feeling in the legs and feet is to sit in the proper, relaxed position," which, according to Dr. Sonpal, is upright with your knees higher than your hips.
2. Don’t Linger
Dr. Sonpal recommends you "avoid spending longer than five to 10 minutes on the toilet seat, and if you are straining to pass the stool, get up and try again in 15 minutes."
Remember, "bowel movements should be easy, quick and effortless," says Dr. Sonpal, adding that you might need to incorporate more fiber and water into your diet to loosen up and soften stool.
3. Get a Toilet Stool
"Squatty potties can help the rectal canal be more open, which means less straining, easier bowel movements and less time spent on the toilet," Dr. Sonpal says.
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4. Try a Toilet Cushion
Toilet cushions or padded toilet seats "can also give the buttocks and pelvic region more cushion, improving blood flow to the feet," Dr. Sonpal says.
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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.