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May 04, 2018
You’ve probably experienced it at one time or another — that annoying feeling of prickly pins and needles that happens after your foot, arm or leg “falls asleep.” The technical term for this sensation is paresthesia. It happens when nerves once again begin receiving messages from your brain after a period of time. If you sleep wrong or spend too much time in the same, restrictive position, you might experience paresthesia.
The pins and needles feeling has been described in different ways from those who’ve felt it. Some liken it to having their “skin crawl.” Others say it’s more like an elusive itch that can’t be effectively scratched. You feel this way because your brain is sending you a warning that it’s time to move, shift or change positions. Something is interfering with the nerve endings in that part of your body, usually an extremity, and it needs to be remedied.
Typically, an hour or two spent in the same position is harmless. But spend too much time immobile in a restrictive position, and you could risk permanent nerve damage that’s irreversible.
For most people, pins and needles is an occasional sensation that’s no big deal, but for others, it can be much more annoying. If you routinely suffer from paresthesia at night, for instance, it can interfere with the quality and quantity of the sleep you get. This can cause problems throughout the day when you’re chronically tired, have slower reaction times or cranky, irritable and moody.
If you’re awakened at night by paresthesia, or if the sensation keeps you from falling asleep in a timely fashion, there are some simple remedies that may help:
In most instances, that pins and needles feeling is beneficial. It’s telling you that something is wrong, and you need to right it. Occasionally, however, it can be an indicator of a more serious medical condition. Some issues that can begin as a pins and needles sensation include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and even diabetes. If your pins and needles are chronic, or are accompanied by total numbness in your arm or leg, it’s time to visit your doctor. Your doctor may be able to prescribe simple lifestyle changes or medication to improve your condition.