What is paresthesia? Understand the “pins and needles” feeling

Do you ever have a burning, tingling or numb feeling in certain parts of your body? If so, then you may have paresthesia, commonly referred to as tingling. This feeling usually occurs in the arms and legs, but other areas can also be affected.

Feeling tingling in your feet or hands can be frustrating, but there are treatments and other easy ways to relieve it.

Paresthesia occurs when a nerve becomes irritated by excessive pressure and begins sending extra signals to the body. While it’s a temporary condition that can occur when your body part falls asleep, for some people it can lead to a lasting problem or be a symptom of a serious health condition.

Causes of paresthesia

Some common causes of transient and chronic paresthesia are:

In the interim:

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

Chronic:

  • toxic exposure
  • severe infections
  • medication
  • systematic disease
  • hereditary disorders
  • hyperthyroidism
  • nutritional deficiencies

You will usually get tingling sensations in your hands, legs or feet, but it can happen in any part of your body. You may feel itching, burning and tingling or tingling all over your body.

Why are you getting tingling?

Basically, this sharp feeling is a sign that the nerve is irritated and sending more signals to the body than usual. When your nerve is pinched or compressed for a long time, it causes a blockage and doesn’t receive the energy and oxygen it needs to send signals to the brain.

This constant pressure on the nerve causes tingling throughout the body, mostly affecting the hands and legs. The feeling disappears as soon as the pressure is reduced.

You can get transient paraesthesia at any time — it can happen when you sleep with your arms tucked under your pillow or when you cross your legs. Chronic paresthesia, on the other hand, can last for a long time and is a sign of an underlying health condition

treatment of paresthesia

Treatment options depend heavily on the cause. While the temporary will go away on its own after a while, there are certain ways to reduce the tingling.

Rest

Getting proper rest is one of the best things you can do for a pinched nerve. Stop any activity that can put pressure on the nerve and allow it to heal properly. A person with carpal tunnel syndrome can use a wrist brace to immobilize their wrist.

medication

Certain medications can also be taken to relieve pain and reduce swelling and itching. Medications can also help reduce inflammation, but should be taken as prescribed and recommended by your doctor.

Medications can reduce pain and swelling. (Photo via Pexels/Pixabay)
Medications can reduce pain and swelling. (Photo via Pexels/Pixabay)

physical therapy

Physical therapy can also help relieve symptoms and build strength in the muscles. Strong and healthy muscles can relieve excessive pressure and prevent it from happening again.

If the above treatment options don’t provide relief, the doctor may recommend surgery to relieve pressure on the pinched and compressed nerves. Surgery may include removal of a bone spur or carpal ligament, depending on the problem and the severity of symptoms.

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