• Question: What are pins and needles?

    Asked by tosty55 to Andrew, Eileen on 23 Nov 2012.
    • Photo: Eileen Diskin

      Eileen Diskin answered on 23 Nov 2012:

      Hi tosty55! Pins and needles are that funny feeling you get in your fingers or toes, usually, that can feel a bit prickly or burny.

      The scientific name for it is paraesthesia. Para means abnormal, and aisthesia means sensation. So basically, its an abnormal sensation.

      Why does it happen?! Well, it happens when blood supply to a certain area of your body is cut off. Usually the extremities like your fingers or toes. When the blood supply is cut off, the nerves can’t send signals to the brain like they are supposed to. This can usually be fixed pretty quickly, by taking the pressure off.

      Some people though have it as a chronic (all the time) condition. Sometimes this happens after somebody’s been in an accident, and can also be the sign of a disease, like diabetes. There are medicines that can work to counteract this.

      Good question – and throughout the 2 weeks, you’ve had a lot of great ones. Thanks!

    • Photo: Andrew Jackson

      Andrew Jackson answered on 23 Nov 2012:

      hi David, eileen’s answer is good. It can also happen due to infections or nerve damage. Common causes of pins and needles in hands occurs in people who use machinery like hand-held jackhammers, or when people use crutches to help their walking for long periods. Once you stop using them, the feeling goes away… usually.

      Another cause can be disease, and this can be much more long lasting, painful and annoying to the sufferer. When young kids get chicken-pox virus, it causes an itchy rash on their skin. This passes quite quickly, usually within a week, and they recover fully and are then immune and resistant to the virus for the rest of their lives. However, should somone catch chickenpox as an adult, then the infection can be a lot worse. It tends to attach the nerve endings of adults and can cause a disease called shingles. It results in tingling in the hands and feet, as well as pain. The worst part is that it can last for years and often comes and goes over the rest of the lifetime of the sufferer. Its really bad. This is why some parents will actually bring a child to play with another that has chickenpox ( a chicken pox party!) so that they get it out of the way when they are small. There is also a vaccine available now to protect people and help adult sufferers of shingles.