What Neurological Disorders Cause Pins and Needles?

Medically Reviewed on 9/27/2022
Neurological Disorders
A limb "falls asleep" or experiences “pins and needles” whenever something interferes with the nerve's blood supply or its ability to deliver messages.

Paresthesia, also known as "pins and needles," is an uncomfortable tingling, prickling, itching, or skin-crawling feeling that affects the hands and feet. Sometimes, the affected area is said to have "fallen asleep."

Leaning or lying awkwardly on an arm or leg, which either presses against the nerves or restricts the blood supply to the local area, is a common cause of pins and needles. Changing positions usually returns the feeling to normal as the nerves begin communicating normally with the brain and spinal cord again.

In some instances, transient or permanent nerve injury or specific central nervous system illnesses are to blame for pins and needles. If you encounter frequent or ongoing episodes of pins and needles, you should consult your doctor.

What are the causes of pins and needles?

Paresthesia occurs because of pressure on a nerve. The sensation fades away as the pressure is released, such as when you uncross your legs. It does, however, occasionally persist. Alternatively, if it does, it keeps returning and is known as chronic paresthesia and can indicate a disease or injury to the nerves.

Chronic paresthesia may result from various factors, such as:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: Develops when the little passageway connecting your wrist and lower palm becomes overly constrained. Your median nerve is pressed against that constriction. You may experience pain and numbness in your forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers. Conditions, such as repeated movements, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy, may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Nerve damage: A neck injury may cause you to feel numbness anywhere along your arm or hand, whereas a low back injury can cause numbness or tingle down the back of your leg.
  • Sciatica: The sciatic nerve, which originates between the lower back's vertebrae, supplies sensation to the legs and feet. Due to issues in the lower back, pelvis, or buttock region, this nerve may get inflamed or compressed, resulting in pins and needles and occasionally discomfort down the legs.
  • Cervical nerve root irritation: Small spaces between the cervical vertebrae serve as an exit point for neck nerves from the spinal cord. Inflammation, damage, or bone tissue outgrowths may restrict these tiny pores. The nerves are irritated or compressed, causing pins and needles and, sometimes, pain in the arms.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome: An autoimmune disorder that causes the body's immune system to attack a person's nerves. It is believed that certain viral and bacterial infections can cause this condition.
  • Diabetes: In the United States, neuropathy is primarily brought on by diabetes. Neuropathy affects 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes. Small fiber neuropathy, a disorder that causes excruciating burning sensations in the hands and feet, is most frequently brought on by diabetes.
  • Medications and toxins: Among other things, some HIV medications, anti-seizure medications, and antibiotics can result in neuropathy. Peripheral nerves can be harmed by some medical procedures, including radiation and chemotherapy for cancer. Nerve function can also be affected by hazardous material exposure, including lead and mercury (heavy metals) and industrial chemicals, particularly solvents.
  • Vascular disorders: Neuropathy can develop when inflammation, blood clots, or other problems with blood vessels reduce or impede blood flow to the arms and legs. Reduced blood flow deprives the nerve cells of oxygen, which damages or kills the nerve cells. Vasculitis, smoking, and diabetes can all result in vascular issues.
  • Other medical conditions: Myeloma, lymphoma, monoclonal gammopathy, benign or cancerous tumors (which press on nerves or invade their space), liver diseases, hypothyroidism, and renal disorders can all cause neuropathies.
  • Trauma: Neuropathy can be brought on by fractures, vehicle accidents, sports injuries, or falls. Other causes include a narrowing of the space through which nerves run or compression of the nerves because of repeated stress.

SLIDESHOW

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Surgery, and Treatment See Slideshow

Why do we get pins and needles?

There are numerous reasons for paresthesia. It is frequently brought on by inflammation or damage to the brain, spinal cord, or nerves. It could be either irreversible or transient.

If the arteries that supply blood to the nerve are compressed together with the nerve itself, without a constant flow of glucose and oxygen, the neuron cannot function for very long.

A limb "falls asleep" whenever something interferes with the nerve's blood supply or its capacity to deliver messages. For instance, wheelchair users who sit for extended periods are more susceptible to nerve "traffic jams."

  • When the obstruction is removed, the nerve cells awaken as they begin to transmit impulses once more.
  • As nerves begin to work normally again, the nervous system often becomes hyperactive. 
  • As the nerve structures heal, they exhibit short-term irritation. That is because of spontaneous nerve firing.

An implanted spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulator user may experience paresthesia.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/27/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pins-and-needles

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=58

https://www.webmd.com/brain/paresthesia-facts

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/symptoms/numbness-and-tingling