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Pins and needles

Pins and needles feels like pricking, tingling or numbness on the skin.

It happens when the blood supply to the nerves is cut off. This is usually when you sit or sleep on part of your body. Everyone can get pins and needles. It lasts only a few minutes.

You often get pins and needles in your:

  • arms
  • hands
  • legs
  • feet

It usually stops when the weight is taken off the body part and your blood supply returns to the nerves.

Symptoms of pins and needles

Symptoms of pins and needles include:

  • pricking
  • tingling
  • numbness on the skin

When to see a GP

Talk to your GP if:

  • you constantly have pins and needles
  • it keeps coming back
  • it lasts a long time

Possible causes of pins and needles

Pins and needles can be a symptom of certain conditions. These include:

  • Raynaund's disease
  • hyperventilation
  • sciatica
  • multiple sclerosis

But just because you have pins and needles, does not mean you have a serious condition. Talk to your GP if you're worried.

Long-lasting pins and needles may also be caused by:

  • treatments – such as chemotherapy
  • some medicines – such as HIV medication, medication to prevent seizures, or some antibiotics
  • toxic substances – such as lead or radiation
  • poor diet
  • nerve damage – after an injury or illness
  • drinking too much alcohol

Treatment of pins and needles

If you have temporary pins and needles, you can ease the symptoms by simply taking the pressure off the affected area.

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, treatment will focus on controlling the condition to ease the symptoms.

Related conditions

Raynaud's disease

Pins and needles in fingers or toes that change colour from white to red is a symptom of Raynaud's disease.

Hyperventilation

Symptoms of hyperventilation can include breathing too quickly, trembling hands, pins and needles.

Sciatica

Sciatica is nerve pain. Pain and pins and needles that travels from your back, down your leg to your foot is a symptom of sciatica.

Multiple sclerosis

Pins and needles in different parts of your body is a symptom of multiple sclerosis.

page last reviewed: 26/04/2020
next review due: 26/04/2023

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.