What Is Paresthesia? Understanding the ‘Pins and Needles’ Feeling

Do you ever experience a burning, tingling, or numb sensation in certain parts of your body? If yes, then you might have paresthesia, commonly called pins and needle sensation. This sensation usually occurs in the arms and legs, but other areas might also get affected.

Feeling pins and needles in the feet or hands can be frustrating, however, there are treatments and other simple ways to relieve it.

Paresthesia occurs when a nerve gets irritated due to excessive pressure and starts to send out extra signals to the body. While it is a temporary condition that can happen when your body part falls asleep, for some people, however, it can lead to a permanent issue or can be a symptom of a serious health disease.

Causes of paresthesia

Some common causes of temporary and chronic paresthesia include:


  • Pinched or compressed nerve
  • panic attacks
  • whiplash
  • dehydration
  • hyperventilation
  • seizures
  • repetitive movements
  • circulatory disorders
Panic attacks are a major cause of temporary paresthesia. (Photo via Pexels/SHVETS production)
Panic attacks are a major cause of temporary paresthesia. (Photo via Pexels/SHVETS production)


  • toxic exposure
  • severe infections
  • medications
  • systematic illness
  • hereditary disorders
  • hyperthyroidism
  • nutritional deficiencies

You’ll usually get the sensation of pins and needles in your hands, legs, or feet, but it can happen in any part of your body as well. You could feel an itching, burning, and tingling, or a sensation of pins and needles all over your body.

Why do you get pins and needles feeling?

This sharp sensation is basically a sign that the nerve is irritated and is sending out more signals to the body than usual. If your nerve is pinched or compressed for a long time, it causes a block and doesn’t receive the energy and oxygen it needs to send signals to the brain.

This continuous pressure on the nerve causes the sensation of pins and needles all over the body, mostly affecting the hands and legs. The sensation goes away once the pressure is reduced.

You can experience temporary paresthesia at any time – it can happen when you sleep with your arms pinned under your pillow or when your legs are crossed. Chronic paresthesia, on the other hand, can last for a long time and is a sign of an underlying health condition

Paresthesia treatment

The treatment options majorly depend on the cause. While the temporary one goes away on its own after some time, there are certain ways to reduce the pins and needle sensation.


Taking proper rest is one of the best things you can do for a pinched nerve. Stop all activities that can cause pressure on the nerve and allow it to heal properly. A person with carpal tunnel syndrome can use a wrist brace to immobilize his/her wrist.


Certain medications can also be taken to relieve pain and reduce swelling and pinching sensation. Medications can also help reduce inflammation, however, they should be taken as prescribed and recommended by the doctor.

Medicines can help ease pain and swelling. (Photo via Pexels/Pixabay)
Medicines can help ease pain and swelling. (Photo via Pexels/Pixabay)

Physical therapy

Physical therapy can also be effective for easing the symptoms and help develop strength in the muscles. Strong and healthy muscles can ease excessive pressure and also prevent it from reoccurring.

If the aforementioned treatment options do not provide relief, the doctor may recommend surgery to reduce the pressure on the pinched and compressed nerves. Surgery can include removing a bone spur or carpal ligament, depending on the problem and severity of symptoms.

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