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11/13/2009 - Articles

Why Do I Get Pins and Needles?

By: European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA)

Why Do I Get Pins and Needles?

Many people complain that they get "pins and needles" in some part of the body, from time to time. This extract from a European Federation of Neurological Associations booklet lists possible causes, and when to go to the doctor.

The European Federation of Neurological Associations has published a booklet that is intended to help people who may have neurological symptoms and conditions, as well as anybody who is interested. The topic of this extract is a fairly common complaint, "pins and needles". Robert Griffith, Medical Editor.

Medical terms for pins and needles

Paraesthesia, dysaesthesia.

What is it?

Pins and needles refers to tingling in an area of the skin. It is often accompanied or followed by other alterations of normal sensation such as numbness, coldness, tightness or burning.

What might it mean?

Pins and needles is caused by an alteration in the way nerve signals are conducted from the skin to the brain. It frequently arises from pressure on a nerve in those parts of the body where a nerve is near the skin surface (superficial) and therefore vulnerable, such as the elbow, where the ulnar ('funny bone') nerve is subjected to pressure, or in the calf and foot from pressure on the peroneal nerve below the knee.

On occasion, pins and needles or other alterations in normal sensation may be a symptom of:

  • migraine
  • impairment of the circulation of blood to the hand or foot
  • diabetes
  • vitamin deficiency and malnutrition, sometimes with alcohol abuse
  • TIA (transient ischaemic attack), which may involve one arm and one leg on the same side of the body or may involve all the extremities
  • pressure on a nerve passing through the wrist joint (carpal tunnel syndrome) in the hands
  • rheumatoid arthritis or other diseases where nerves are vulnerable because of joint deformity
  • multiple sclerosis
  • inherited diseases causing degeneration of nerve tissue.


Should I see my doctor about it?

Seek medical attention if pins and needles is persistent and combined or alternating with pain, weakness, clumsiness or loss of sensation.

When might my doctor want to refer me to a specialist?


  • when treatment has not been helpful
  • when you are losing strength or coordination
  • when you cannot tell if water is warm or cool (loss of sensation).
  • when electrical testing of the nerves or muscles is required.



European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA). Common Neurological Symptoms and Conditions: a guide for non-professionals. Published by The DARE Foundation, 23 Vine Street, Brighton BN1 4 AG, UK. Pdf version available at:


Created on: 07/24/2003
Reviewed on: 11/13/2009

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Anonymous wrote 27 weeks 2 days ago

I always get pins and needles easily. like, almost everyday, and so there might be a problem with my blood flow, right??? So is there a diease for abnormal blood flow???

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