Pins and needles and numbness

Pins and needles or parasthesia is a sign of a change in the way that the nerve is working. Most commonly people who experience having a “dead leg” will experience this when they get up after sitting in an awkward position and the nerve “comes back to life”. It can be quite uncomfortable and painful as well.

  • A loss of sensation or change in your ability to move your bowels or empty your bladder
  • Any significant arm or leg pains, weakness and pins and needles
  • Feeling unwell with a raised temperature
  • Pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night persistently
  • Noticeable weight loss suggesting poor general health
  • A significant injury with a sudden onset of the problem
  • Achange in your walking with unsteadiness
If you have any of the above red flag features you must seek a doctors opinion.

Commonly the change in the nerve is produced by an entrapment of the nerve. It is not always obvious from the experience to know where this is. Classically people with pins and needles in their hands which wake them up at night may be produced by a trapped nerve at the wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome), or the same could be produced by a trapped nerve in the neck or even a bit of both. The trapping of the nerve may only come on in certain positions which is one reason why it may come and go. There are many reasons why people experience this and many are short lived and nothing to worry about. It will often only be by listening to how when and where this happens, examining the person and then possibly getting some investigations, that it may be possible to say where the problem to the nerve is occurring.

Generally so long as you do not have any of the worrying features mentioned above it is not unreasonable to try any treatment. This can include exercises, stretches, acupuncture, pain management with pain killers, cognitive behaviour therapy, physical treatments including physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathic. 

This is not an exhaustive list. The important thing is that if the treatments are not working then maybe it is worth thinking of another type of treatment and discussing the problem with your GP. If your pain changes or becomes worse this is another reason to stop and seek advice.