Pins and needles is a cold, prickling, burning or tingling sensation that is usually felt in the feet, legs, arms or hands. It is most often caused by pressure on the nerves for long periods of time; it may also be caused by certain metabolic diseases where the peripheral nerves are damaged.

Long term paraesthesiae are caused by multiple long term conditions, which might include

  • A stroke or mini-stroke — when blood flow to your brain is cut off and causes damage
  • Multiple sclerosis — a disease of the central nervous system that affects the way your body feels
  • Diabetes — a blood sugar disorder that can damage your nerves over time
  • A pinched nerve (often in your neck, shoulder, or arm) from injury or overuse
  • Sciatica — pressure on the sciatic nerve (which goes from your lower pelvis to your buttocks and legs), a common problem during pregnancy that typically causes numbness and pain in your back or legs
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome — when the small tunnel that goes from your wrist to your lower palm gets too narrow and causes pain and numbness in your forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers
  • Lack of some vitamins, especially low levels of vitamin B12, which is important for nerve health
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Certain medications — such as some types of chemotherapy that cause nerve irritation or damage as well as some antibiotics, HIV, and anti-seizure medications


To identify the underlying cause of pins and needles, a complete history should be taken, as well a complete physical exam should be performed. The following tests may also be carried out:

blood tests, including full blood count

nerve or muscle biopsy

electromyogram – a test that measures a muscle’s response to electric stimuli

CT and / or MRI scan

urine testing


If you have temporary pins and needles, you can ease the symptoms by simply taking the pressure off the affected area. If the pins and needles are very uncomfortable you may require medication to help control the symptoms.

If you have chronic pins and needles, the treatment will depend on what has caused it. For example, if it is caused by an underlying condition, such as diabetes, treatment will focus on controlling the condition to ease the symptoms. This may be done through medication or surgery.

Pins and needles may be caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency.The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is pernicious anaemia due to a deficiency of intrinsic factor in the stomach.Ths is an autoimmune disorder.The treatment is by vitamin D injections daily for the first few injections and then monthly for life. In these cases.


Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife

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