Pins and Needles (Paraesthesia)

Paraesthesia is more commonly known as pins and needles. You probably already know the sensation – the feeling that your skin is prickly, burning and numb.

The sensation is caused by a restriction of blood to the nerves, usually when you sit or lay on one part of the body for too long, for example, falling asleep on your arm. The nerve irritation usually passes once the pressure is relieved, as this allows the blood to return to the nerves.

Most cases of paresthesia will pass within a couple of minutes and do not usually mean that anything is wrong. Sometimes though, you can experience chronic paresthesia, which could be due to a problem with the central nervous system or due to nerve damage.

If you have pins and needles that don’t go away, or if you get it frequently, you should see a GP.

Common symptoms associated with paresthesia include:

  • Skin crawling
  • Prickling
  • Burning sensation
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Skin feeling hot or cold

If you only experience this sensation every so often, and it stops soon after you relieve the pressure on the body part, it’s usually nothing to worry about.

However, if you experience this a lot, or if it’s constant or impacts your day to day life, you should see a GP for further investigations, and to rule out an underlying condition.

You should speak to a GP if you have paresthesia regularly or constantly, especially if there doesn’t seem to be a reason behind it.

The doctor will need to know about the paresthesia symptoms you are experiencing, how long have you had them and if you notice anything that triggers them. They will want to go through your medical history, as the numbness may be caused by an existing condition, for example, diabetes or nerve damage, or new medication you are taking.

You may need to be referred for further tests. These could include a physical examination, blood tests, or possibly scans or x-rays. You may also be referred to a specialist, depending on the outcome of your consultation, to try to discover the cause.

Paresthesia is usually caused by something simple, such as sitting with your legs crossed for too long, cutting off the circulation. The symptoms should pass on their own without the need of medical attention. However, as we’ve mentioned, there are some underlying causes of chronic paresthesia, these include:


This is when your nerves have permanent damage. Having persistent high blood sugar, usually due to diabetes is the most common cause of it, but it can also be caused by an illness or injury.


More commonly known as a pinched nerve, this is where a nerve is compressed, becomes inflamed, or irritated and it can lead to pins and needles.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This causes numbness, tingling or weakness in your hands. It is caused by pressure on the peripheral nerves that run through the wrist.

Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s most commonly affects your fingers and toes, and it’s when your blood circulation doesn’t work properly. You can experience pins and needles in your extremities, and they’ll change colour from normal, to white, to red.


This is a condition where you have chronic pain, and paresthesia is a common symptom of it.


If you are struggling to control your blood sugar, you may get a pins and needles sensation when your blood sugars are too high or too low. If you have persistent high blood sugars, it can lead to neuropathy.

Multiple sclerosis

This condition affects the brain and spinal cord. It can cause sensations of paresthesia in different parts of your body.


If you feel pins and needles or numbness that travels down your leg and foot from your back, this can be a sign of sciatica.


Anxiety can cause you to breathe rapidly, which may lead to a tingling feeling in different parts of your body, most commonly the fingers and lips.


Weakness, numbness or pins and needles in one arm or one side of the body could indicate a stroke. You should seek medical attention immediately.

Herniated disc

Damage to the discs between the vertebrae can cause the nerves to become irritated or compressed. This can lead to numbness or paresthesia symptoms.

If you have saddle anaethesia (numbness between the legs) or if you cannot control holding your urine you should seek urgent medical assistance.

Paresthesia can also be a side effect of certain medications or treatments, or as a result of a poor diet or drinking too much alcohol.

This is not an extensive list of causes – if you have constant or regular pins and needles, see a GP and they can start to investigate what is causing it.

The treatment for paresthesia will be dependent on what is causing the symptoms. The doctor, or specialist if you’re referred to one, will need to identify this before recommending your next steps.

Our doctors are online 7 days a week, every day of the year. They can listen to your paresthesia symptoms and recommend your next steps.