Why Do We Get Pins and Needles Sensation?

Sometime we can experience pins and needles sensation due to certain reasons. The most important thing is when can you consider it as a normal or abnormal condition?! Generally when this symptom comes too often or lasts longer than usual (chronic), you should start to ask to yourself whether it points to certain health condition. Medically, this symptom is often called ‘paraesthesia’.

It is often characterized by a sensation of burning, pricking, numbness or tingling. Typically, it will not generate any pain but it often causes itching – even sometime it also can cause pain. Feet, hands, and arms are some common sites of the body where these symptoms to occur.

Normal pins and needles

Almost all people can experience this symptom from time to time – and it’s perfectly normal because the problem can go away on its own (temporary).

In general, it can occur when the blood supply that flows to the nerves of the affected part of the body is temporarily blocked due to a pressure that applied to that area. This condition can affect the way of the nerve’s mechanism in sending the signals to the brain. As a result, you will experience pins and needles.

In many cases, kneeling too long is the common cause that can create more pressure to the legs which then may affect and limit the supply of blood to the nerves of lower legs. Fortunately, this is only temporary – once you take the pressure off, you will allow the blood supply go back to normal, and your tingling /numbness sensation should go away naturally.

When is it considered abnormal (chronic paraesthesia)?

If the symptom is long lasting, don’t ignore it – seek and find help by seeing a doctor to confirm and get a clearly diagnosis for the cause! Chronic tingling or numbness that lasts over a long period of time can be a sign of certain health problems, which may include:

  1. Certain infections – such as Lyme disease and HIV /AIDS.
  2. Raynaud’s phenomenon or other health problems that affect blood vessels.
  3. Hypothyroidism, diabetes, or other types of metabolic disease.
  4. Rheumatoid arthritis or other problems associated with connective tissue.
  5. An inflammation that affect the nerves – such as neuritis.
  6. The nerve-entrapment disorder /syndrome, like sciatica or carpal tunnel syndrome.
  7. Atherosclerosis, a kind of cardiovascular disease.
  8. Multiple sclerosis.
  9. Stroke and mini stroke.
  10. A health problem of spinal cord, such as transverse myelitis.
  11. Brain abscess.
  12. Encephalitis
  13. And even brain tumor.

pins_and_needles_sensation_illustrationSometime persistent paraesthesia also can develop after an injury – especially after getting a serious injury that directly affects the nerves. Taking certain medications, such as chemotherapy and anticonvulsant medications may also increase the risk of having persistent pins and needles. The following are other possible causes of a long lasting paraesthesia:

  1. Abusing alcohol.
  2. The existence of abnormal cells in the body (cancer).
  3. Having lack of certain essential nutrients, such as vitamin B12. This is commonly caused by a unhealthy or poor diet.
  4. Excessively exposure to certain toxic substance or radiation.

What are other symptoms that co-exist with pins & needles?

Sometime pins and needles condition is not only about numbness, burning, or tingling – it may also be followed with other symptoms which may include:

  1. The affected site is more sensitive to touch.
  2. Muscle spasms.
  3. Rash.
  4. Increased anxiety.
  5. Increased urge to urinate.
  6. Discomfort or pain in the affected area.

You may also notice that the intensity of your pins & needles increase while performing a task, particularly a task that involves the affected part of your body.

Can chronic paraesthesia be potentially life-threatening?

Paraesthesia itself may be only a mild health condition. But for persistent paraesthesia and your doctor find that it is a sign of certain health condition (such as stroke or brain tumor), it’s important to keep monitoring this symptom!