What is actually happening when you feel pins and needles in your limbs? We explain what causes the strange sensation in this guide.

What Is Actually Happening When You Feel Pins and Needles?

Do you feel numbness and tingling in your hands or feet? Is the feeling that your leg is asleep not going away? You may be experiencing a sensation that is often referred to as “pins and needles.”

What are pins and needles? Pins and needles refer to a sensation of numbness, burning or prickling often felt in the hands, feet, arms, or legs. The sensation is usually described as experiencing numbness and tingling, feeling like your skin is crawling, or feeling itchy.

The medical term for pins and needles is paresthesia. Most people have experienced temporary paresthesia at some point in their lives. Although it’s a common occurrence, paresthesia could be indicative of a more serious health problem.

Keep on reading to find out what causes this strange sensation and what it could mean for your health.

What Causes the Feeling of Pins and Needles?

You get the feeling of pins and needles when sustained pressure has been put upon one or more of your nerves. This is why most people who’ve experienced paresthesia have gotten pins and needles after sitting with their arms or legs crossed for long periods of time. Usually, the sensation will go away after the nerve is relieved from the pressure.

Chronic paresthesia may be a symptom of:

  • an underlying neurological disease,
  • traumatic nerve damage,
  • brain or spinal tumor,
  • brain or spinal vascular lesion,
  • nerve entrapment syndromes (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), 
  • or a disorder affecting the central nervous system. 

People who have sustained head, neck, or back injuries from a serious car collision often develop chronic paresthesia. Pins and needles in hands may be indicative of a head or neck injury; whereas pins and needles in feet are indicative of a back injury.

You do not need to have been injured to develop chronic paresthesia. Chronic paresthesia is a common symptom experienced by people suffering from diabetes or alcoholism.  

If you have been recently injured in an accident, look out for warning signs of nerve damage. The pins and needles you may be feeling in your feet could be related to your back injury.

The human body is mind-boggling complex. It’s difficult to understand how trauma to one part of your body can affect another part of your body, which is why nerve damage injuries can go unnoticed. 

When to Seek Medical Treatment 

The feeling of pins and needles is an almost universal experience. It’s typically nothing to be concerned about.

That being said, you should seek medical treatment if you get frequent and/or long-lasting sensations of pins and needles. It could be a symptom of a more serious underlying health issue. Your prognosis and treatment will depend on your diagnosis. 

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