Pins and Needles in Hands

The numbing sensation felt in arms and legs is most commonly referred to as pins and needles. Paresthesia is the medical name for pins and needles. In most cases, the affected party feels no pain, and only slight discomfort - it may also hamper acts related to the influenced region, like gripping or walking. Usually pins and needles in hands is a temporary symptom, however in rare cases it can be chronic. This article explored the causes of pins and needles in hands as well how it is diagnosed and treated.

Causes of Pins and Needles in Hands

Every human being feels the irritating effects of this syndrome in their hands, feet or even both. More often than not, it is benign and thought of as a mere annoyance, and simply walked off. Various factors lead to pins and needles- for example, sleeping with arched arms beneath the head can cause the sensation or crossing the legs for an extended period can also apply pressure to the nerves, causing numbness. In these cases, the numbing feeling is counteracted by easing off the pressure on the arms or legs.

In rare cases, the irritating sensation might persist longer than usual- in this case not seeking medical help is almost a cardinal sin. Similar to most syndromes, the earlier the cause is brought to light, the better the chance of avoiding a potential lifelong problem.

The worrying causes for pins and needles are:

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve disease that attacks the peripheral nervous system. Since the nerves are damaged due to this disease, the pins and needles syndrome persists until treated.


In this condition, peripheral neuropathy is a complication arisen by diabetes, and occurs when the blood has too much glucose, causing nerve damage.

Vitamin Deficiency

Since nerves need a certain amount of nutrients to work optimally, a lack of vitamins can cause nerve damage, which leads to paresthesia. The vitamins you lack may be Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6.


Heavy intake of alcohol over time starts to damage nerves, leading to paresthesia.

Trapped Nerves

Carpal tunnel syndrome, perennial nerve palsy and radical nerve palsy are all included. In fact, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most frequent conditions affecting the upper limb. It can cause irritation, pain, numbness and sometimes weakens the hand. The pain has been known to cause a disturbance while sleeping too.

Systemic Diseases

Liver disease, kidney disorders, blood diseases, amyloidosis, chronic inflammation and connective tissue disorders, hormonal imbalances (including hypothyroidism) and tumors can all result in tingling feelings in hands.

Herpes Zoster

The initial symptoms for herpes zoster infection are headaches and fevers, followed by paresthesia.


The numbing effects of anesthesia have been known to persist long after administration of the drug. It is sometimes permanent.


Some medicines have been known to be the source of nerve damage. Generally, the problem is solved by stopping the medicines. Some medicines synonymous with paresthesia include, chemotherapy medicines (for breast cancer and lymphoma) and antiretroviral – which are used to treat HIV/AIDS.

Other Causes

  • Chemotherapy has been known to cause neuropathy in approximately 30- 40% of the patients.
  • Any physical injury, like frostbite may lead to neuropathy, and thus chronic paresthesia.
  • Toxins from heavy metals like lead or mercury can also lead to neuropathy.

Diagnosis of Paresthesia (Pins and Needles in Hands)

To diagnose paresthesia, it is important to remember medical history and dietary habits of the patient. Usually diagnosis starts with identifying the part of body affected by paresthesia. Sometimes doctors ask whether the symptoms are synonymous with one or both sides of the body. They also question the feeling of the diagnosed region.

Keeping tabs on the sensation throughout the day is also helpful in diagnostics, it is important to note if the sensation exhibits any change. Retracing your footsteps is also a stellar way to diagnose paresthesia- events in the day like exercise, stress, medication and dietary habits can help underline the source.

An examination of medical history is also recommended, as diseases like diabetes or even physical trauma have been connected to paresthesia. A closer inspection of the work environment can narrow down the diagnosis, as chemicals like nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide cause paresthesia.

Anxiety and stress should also be kept under control to avoid the pins and needles sensation; antidepressants can be used to minimize the effect. Monitoring dietary and smoking habits is not only essential for a longer life, it is also imperative to stopping paresthesia.

Treatment of Paresthesia (Pins and Needles in Hands)

  • The treatment of paresthesia is entirely dependent on the diagnoses. For temporary paresthesia, the diagnosed area can be relieved by moving or stretching the affected limb. For paresthesia generated from migraines, medicines like aspirin or ibuprofen are advised by doctors.
  • In chronic cases, like paresthesia due to diabetes or chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, the treatments aim at relief from the numbing sensation.
  • For serious cases of paresthesia, doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressant drugs like amitriptyline; however, the dosage is relatively lower than for patients who exhibit depression. Since anti-depressant drugs are focused on changing the patient’s perception of pain, they are considered beneficial for people suffering from paresthesia. Drugs such as codeine are sometimes administered to patients suffering from severe paresthesia.
  • For paresthesia caused by vitamin deficiency or malnutrition, nutritional therapy can be helpful in curbing the symptoms of paresthesia. An example of nutritional therapy is the B complex vitamin supplementation. The downside, however, is that while vitamin supplementation can be helpful, if done too much, an overdose of Vitamin B6 can occur, which is one of the causes of paresthesia.
  • Since alcohol is also a cause of paresthesia, avoiding alcohol should be an obvious decision for anyone suffering from paresthesia.
  • Various procedures like acupuncture and massages also relax the nerves and are believed to reduce the effects of paresthesia.
  • Capsaicin containing ointments are also known to help, along with aromatic oils.
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