Pins and Needles/Numbness


What is it?

Pins and needles and/or numbness is a change in sensation usually somewhere in your arms or legs. This sensation is a result of injury to a nerve that supplies that area of your body.

What does it feel like?

Most people describe the feeling of a nerve injury as pins and needles or tingling. Other descriptions include numbness, a dead feeling, heavy or just increased or decreased sensation in an area.

What causes Pins and Needles or Numbness?

Pins and needles or numbness is caused by damage or compression to a nerve. This damage can affect nerves that supply muscles, areas of skin or joints. This can happen for a large number of reasons including:

  • Tight muscles crushing the nerve e.g. your piriformis getting tight can be a cause of sciatica
  • A sudden stretch on the nerve e.g. landing on your head and shoulder at the same time
  • Stiffness in a joint e.g. T4 syndrome can affect the nerves supplying both hands causing a feeling of wearing gloves
  • A disc prolapse where the disc in your spine presses on or leaks on to the nerve
  • Trauma or surgery e.g. a broken bone can injure the nerve at the same time, often surgery involves cutting through superficial nerves that supply the skin in the local area
  • Temporary crush syndrome for example when you lie on your arm too long and it ‘goes to sleep’

How is it diagnosed?

Your Physiotherapist can diagnose the cause of your pins and needles or numbness from your symptoms, cause of injury and performing a full physical assessment. Further investigations such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be required if your symptoms are severe and your symptoms are not settling with treatment. You should discuss your symptoms thoroughly with your therapist so they can determine if this is necessary.

How can Back in Action Physiotherapy help?

At Back in Action we will talk to you and listen to how your symptoms are affecting your everyday activities. We will start with a thorough assessment of your movements, joints and nerves to determine the exact cause. Each person is different and so you will need treatment to be tailored for your current symptoms and pain. Painkillers and Anti-inflammatories can help to relieve some nerve pain and we recommend you see your local Pharmacist or Doctor regarding the best type for you. Once we have diagnosed your injury we will use a combination of techniques such as mobilisations, massage, stretching, acupuncture, taping, muscle energy techniques, and some basic home exercises to help you get better, faster. We can advise and educate you about your injury and set goals with you to achieve in and out of our sessions. Pins and needles or numbness is common very rarely requires surgery if treated early so come and see us for an assessment as soon as possible.