What Causes That Pins and Needles Feeling?


We’ve all experienced it: we lounge out on the couch after a long day, prop up our legs, turn on some Netflix or break out the latest New York Times bestseller book. All of the sudden, in the middle of the most gripping scene, pins and needles start to crawl up your foot and through your leg. You adjust your position or jump up and shake it out and it subsides. What causes that sensation?

This pins and needles sensation is called paresthesia and happens because you put pressure right on a nerve. Once you’ve shifted positions and taken the pressure off, it usually subsides over time. However, for some people, the sensation persists. This is commonly a sign of an underlying medical disorder that needs attention from a podiatrist.

What causes paresthesia?

The cause is not always possible to determine, and it is typically linked to other underlying conditions. As mentioned, temporary paresthesia happens when you put pressure on a nerve. It’s also caused by poor circulation. Chronic paresthesia, however, might be a signal that you have nerve damage. Nerve damage that causes paresthesia is either radiculopathy or neuropathy.

What Is Radiculopathy?

Whenever nerve roots are compressed, irritated or inflamed, it causes radiculopathy. It can occur when you have:

  • A herniated disk pressing on a nerve
  • Narrowing in the spinal canal that transmits to your affected appendage
  • A mass on the nerve

What Is Neuropathy?

Chronic nerve damage causes neuropathy. Patients with diabetes who have high blood sugar often suffer from neuropathy. It may is also caused by:

Podiatrists’ treatment of paresthesia will vary based on the underlying cause. Often a lifestyle change or custom orthotics will help if the issue is caused by trauma or overuse. 

If you’re experiencing that pins and needles sensation constantly, we’re here to help you. Here at Bay Podiatry Associates, our board-certified podiatrist, Dr. Argirios Mantzoukas, can answer any questions you might have related to foot and ankle care. We’re here to ensure great foot health for life. To schedule an appointment, give us a call today at (718) 266-1986.