Pins and needles

Pins and needles is a tingling sensation in your skin caused by lack of blood supply to your sensory nerves in the area affected. You may also feel numb or unable to feel sensation at all.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2023


Most commonly, pins and needles are felt in:

  • Your fingers
  • Your hands
  • Your feet
  • Your arms
  • Your legs

It can be caused by:                                          

  • A trapped nerve
  • Pressure on the blood supply to the area of skin affected
  • An underlying condition

It usually only lasts for a few minutes, until the blood supply is returned. However, chronic (long-term) pins and needles may require treatment for an underlying problem.

Causes of pins and needles

The most common cause is simply sitting or lying awkwardly, such as cross-legged.

However, long lasting pins and needles could be caused by an underlying condition, such as:

Pins and needles can also be caused by:

  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Nerve damage
  • Poor diet
  • Some medications – such as chemotherapy
  • Toxic substances

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Getting a diagnosis for pins and needles

You should see your GP if you have constant pins and needles or if it keeps coming back. They’ll discuss your symptoms and carry out an examination which may include:

  • Seeing if you can feel a pinprick on your skin
  • Taking your blood pressure and pulse
  • Blood test for anaemia, vitamin 12 deficiency or diabetes

If these tests are inconclusive, you may be referred for further tests on your heart and nervous system.

Treatments for pins and needles

You can avoid pins and needles by:

  • Wearing loose clothing or shoes
  • Sitting comfortably, for example without putting pressure on your foot
  • Avoid using vibrating tools such as hammer drills or grinders

Long term pins and needles will require treatment for the underlying cause. This can include: