Needle Pricking Sensation on Skin Surface

Have you ever stayed in a certain position for so long that you started to feel a needle pricking sensation on the surface of your skin? This can happen anywhere – your hands, your feet, and sometimes even your face! So, what is this needle pricking sensation on skin surface caused by?

A needle pricking sensation on your skin’s surface is called paresthesia. It can feel like the skin is tingling, burning, pricking, and sometimes numb. This is a dermal sensation with no proven cause; however, some possible theories exist, such as:

  1. Anxiety and Stress
  2. Diabetes
  3. Stroke
  4. Hypothyroidism
  5. Multiple Sclerosis
  6. Pregnancy

Paresthesia commonly occurs in the hands, feet, arms, and legs. It is normally a painless and temporary sensation that goes away on its own after a short while.

Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of a limb “falling asleep” or feeling needles pricking your skin. This is normally not a big reason to be concerned. Most of the time, this sensation is caused by pressure on the nerves when you’ve been in the same position for too long. The needle pricking sensation should go away when you move.

Occasional pins and needle pricking sensations on the skin’s surface are harmless, especially if it’s caused by pressure on a nerve sustained by odd postures or sleeping positions. However, if you are feeling this sensation persistently for three months or more, you should see a doctor and find out if there is an underlying condition causing it.

Read on to learn more about what the needle pricking sensation on skin surface is and how to get rid of it!

Needle Pricking Sensation on Skin Surface

As mentioned before, this needle pricking sensation can happen when a limb is compressed to the point that the blood flow to that area is limited. However, there are some conditions involving nerves that can be the cause. The following conditions are:

  1. Anxiety and Stress
  2. Diabetes
  3. Stroke
  4. Hypothyroidism
  5. Multiple Sclerosis
  6. Pregnancy

These are just some of the possible causes for the needle pricking sensation on your skin. Let’s now look at each possible cause.

1. Anxiety and Stress

One of the causes of paresthesia is anxiety and stress. This could be due to the changes our body goes through in response to stress. In addition to the needle pricking sensation on your skin, other symptoms of a panic attack are:

  • Palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Elevated heart rate

2. Diabetes

People with diabetes are at great risk of developing peripheral neuropathy, which is basically nerve damage in the feet, legs, arms, and hands. This is due to the high blood glucose levels that damage the nerves and blood vessels in the body. People who have this condition will feel tingling and numbness in the affected areas.

Keeping blood sugar levels at a normal level can improve paresthesia. A balanced diet and regular exercise also help. Exercise increases sensitivity to insulin, and the increased physical activity helps in improving blood flow to the extremities, thus improving paresthesia.

See the below video, which goes into more detail of peripheral neuropathy: Burning and numbness in hands, legs and feet – with Amir Shokrae, M.D., and Larry Santora, M.D., medical director of the Orange County Heart Institute:

3. Stroke

The needle pricking sensation on the skin and numbness is one of the things people notice when they have a stroke. After the stroke, how your body processes sensory inputs can also change. This is because when you have a stroke, you experience blood loss in parts of the brain, which causes the connections to the brain cells to become damaged.

These connections are responsible for coordinating motor functions, which is why for someone who’s had a stroke, they find themselves having to “teach” their brain again on how to use their body parts.

4. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the condition when your body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Severe, long-term untreated hypothyroidism can result in experiencing paresthesia, among other things. This is because hypothyroidism is known to cause fluid retention, which in turn results in swollen tissues.

These swollen tissues then cause a restriction of blood flow to certain body parts, thus causing the needle pricking sensation on the skin surface.

5. Multiple Sclerosis

People who have multiple sclerosis can experience strange sensations on their skin. This includes the needle pricking sensation, burning, numbness, and sometimes even the feeling that there is something crawling on their skin.

This is mainly due to the nerve damage that has been caused by multiple sclerosis. However, if these sensations feel like they are getting worse, it does not mean that your MS is getting worse as well. This is because there is no proven correlation between these sensations and the progression of MS.

6. Pregnancy

Since paresthesia is caused by pressure on a nerve, women may experience this over the course of their pregnancy. Pregnant women may find swelling in their wrists, and this is because nerves are compressed due to the swelling.

It is possible that this will get worse as the pregnancy progresses, but you should see your doctor if the needle pricking sensation on your skin becomes really bothersome.

Who Is at Risk of This Needle Pricking Sensation?

Anyone can experience the needle pricking sensation on their skin, but some people may be more prone to it, especially if they:

  • Perform repetitive movements that compress the nerves like typing or playing an instrument.
  • Have a poor diet and drink heavily.
  • Have type 1 or 2 diabetes.
  • Have been diagnosed with a neurological condition like multiple sclerosis.
  • Are pregnant.

When to See a Doctor

Feeling the needle pricking sensation on the skin surface every now and then is generally harmless. However, when you experience chronic pins and needles with stabbing pains on the affected limb, you should see a doctor. If your life is affected due to your paresthesia because you find it hard to walk or hold things in your hand, it is best to see a doctor find out what is causing it.

Your doctor will need your medical history. You should also advise your doctor about any activities you have that require repetitive movements. Also, inform your doctor of any over-the-counter medicines or prescription medicines that you take.

Your doctor will take into consideration any known health conditions you may have to help make a diagnosis. For example, if you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor will probably want to check if you have nerve damage causing the needle pricking sensation.

In some cases where no obvious reason can be seen, a full physical exam, as well as a neurological exam, may be needed. Laboratory tests and blood tests may also be requested by your doctor to help rule out certain diseases. Based on the exam results, your doctor may refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist, an endocrinologist, or an orthopedist.

Paresthesia Treatment Options

In order to cure paresthesia, you need to identify first what is causing it. If it is caused simply by pressure on a nerve because you stayed in an odd position for a while, you should change your position and move the affected limb.

If the needle pricking sensation is caused by other conditions like diabetes or is actually a complication of treatment like chemotherapy, you should focus on relieving the symptoms. Most of the time, anti-inflammatory medicines are recommended by doctors.

Having a balanced, healthy diet and exercise are also great ways to relieve paresthesia symptoms. Getting the right and enough nutrients from the food we eat ensures that there will be minimal to no vitamin deficiencies in our diet. Exercise and movement will help in promoting blood circulation in the body, all helping to alleviate the symptoms of paresthesia.

Treatment for paresthesia caused by carpal tunnel syndrome includes rest, splinting, and medications. If the nerve is compressed or irritated, treatment will include physiotherapy, medication, and sometimes even surgery to relieve pressure and help the nerve to resume its full functions.

Conditions like diabetes need to be properly managed in order to relieve paresthesia symptoms. If the nerve damage and inflammation are caused by excessive alcohol consumption, the symptoms should improve once the person stops drinking.

Alternative Treatments

Alternative treatments are also available to help in relieving paresthesia symptoms. These include getting more B complex vitamins. However, this should only be upon the advice of your doctor because excessive Vitamin B6 can actually worsen your paresthesia. Alcohol should also be avoided.

Other alternative treatments include acupuncture and massage. These are known to provide relief from the needle pricking sensation on the skin. Applying oils and ointments are also helpful in relieving the symptoms, especially those that have capsaicin – this is the substance that makes peppers hot.

Conclusion – Needle Pricking Sensation on Skin Surface

So, what is the needle pricking sensation on skin surface all about – what causes it, and why do you get it? A needle pricking sensation on your skin’s surface is medically called paresthesia. It is a dermal sensation where you feel tingling, burning, pricking, and sometimes numbness. Possible causes of paresthesia – the needle pricking sensation include:

  1. Anxiety and Stress
  2. Diabetes
  3. Stroke
  4. Hypothyroidism
  5. Multiple Sclerosis
  6. Pregnancy

Quick Facts on Paresthesia – The Pins and Needles on Skin Sensation

  • Paresthesia is a dermal sensation that occurs with no apparent physical cause. This can cause needle pricking sensation on the skin surface as well as tingling and burning sensations on the skin.
  • Paresthesia can cause the affected area to feel numb, and the limb can feel like it went to sleep.
  • This condition is painless and usually occurs in the hands, feet, arms, and legs.
  • The needle pricking sensation on the skin can be caused by conditions such as:
    • Anxiety and Stress
    • Diabetes
    • Stroke
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Pregnancy
  • This condition can also be caused by malnutrition and vitamin deficiency.
  • The use of certain medicines and the toxicity of substances like alcohol can cause the needle pricking sensation.

Related reading:

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