What Causes ‘Pins and Needles?’

After sitting in a cross-legged position, you decide to stand up. Getting up, though, isn’t as easy as you’d hoped. One of your legs has fallen asleep and now you have numbness and tingling – a “pins and needles” sensation.

Do you have a problem?

Only temporarily.

The medical term for this condition is “temporary paresthesia.” It is caused by temporary pressure on the nerves in your legs. This can also occur in your arms, hands, feet or other parts of the body. It is not a serious condition. In most instances, feeling will return to normal within a minute or two.

What if it doesn’t go away quickly?

If numbness and tingling continue, you may have a pinched nerve. A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is placed on a nerve by the tissue surrounding it. This pressure can cause pain, tingling, numbness and weakness.

Rest and treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help relieve pain. Your doctor may ask you to stop activities that can worsen the problem. You may also need a splint or brace to protect the affected area from movement.

Your chances of having a pinched nerve increase if you have:

Poor Posture

Osteoarthritis

Overuse (repetitive hand, wrist or shoulder movements)

Obesity

A family history of this condition

Causes and treatment

There are many reasons for numbness and tingling. For example, if you have problems with your hands and you type a lot or perform assembly line work, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS occurs when there is damage to the median nerve that travels through your wrist to control your thumb, forefinger and ring finger. CTS can be treated with splints, medication and proper positioning of your hands.

Similar treatments can be used for the same type of numbness and tingling in other parts of the body. Surgery can be performed to release a compressed nerve and move it to another area.

Other causes

Conditions that can cause pins and needles and nerve damage include:

Diabetes

An underactive thyroid

Multiple sclerosis

Reduced blood supply to the affected areas

Pressure on spinal nerves (herniated disk)

Stroke

Vitamin or mineral imbalance

Medications

When to call 911

If you have any of the following symptoms along with numbness and tingling, go to the hospital or call 911:

Weakness or paralysis

Numbness or tingling just after a head, neck or back injury

Uncontrolled movements of an arm or a leg

A loss of bladder or bowel control

Confusion or a loss of consciousness, even briefly

Slurred speech, changes in vision or difficulty walking