Pins and Needles Symptoms and Relief
Most of us have had pins and needles symptoms occur once in a while in our lifetime. We’ve likely experienced it when we fall asleep on our arm or cross our legs for too long. An occasional pins and needles feeling is probably nothing to worry about. But, sometimes pins and needles and associated symptoms start happening more regularly, mainly as we grow older. When these sensations start interfering with your daily life, it’s time to evaluate the problem and find relief for your symptoms. If pins and needles occur in your legs, for instance, it can affect your ability to walk or stand safely, and you may have more falls. Let’s learn more about this common problem in seniors and what might help.
Symptoms associated with pins and needles
The medical term for pins and needles sensation is paresthesia. Paresthesia is a broader term that describes similar but different symptoms. In addition to a pins and needles feeling, other symptoms you can have are:
- Feeling as though something is crawling on your skin
- Itching on your skin for apparent reason
- Feeling numbness in certain parts of your hands, arms, legs, or feet
- Feeling weak in the affected area
- Prickling of your skin
- Tingling of your skin
- Burning of your skin
- Feeling coldness in the affected area
These symptoms are typically how pins and needles feelings begin. If your symptoms become more chronic and happen more, they are likely to lead to the classic stabbing feeling that is commonly associated with pins and needles symptoms.
Preventing chronic pins and needles sensations or finding relief for your symptoms is vital. If you’re walking and have a sudden attack in your legs or feet, it could make you lose your balance and fall, particularly if your feet are also numb.
At the very least, persistent pins and needles pain can interfere with your quality of life. This is why it’s so important to find relief for your symptoms.
What causes pins and needles in older people?
The unpleasant sensations of pins and needles have different causes in older people. A younger person, for example, may have pins and needles from sitting with their arm bent talking on their iPhone too long.
But, older people have unique circumstances, and therefore the cause of your pins and needles symptoms is likely to be different.
A stabbing, prickling, burning, or tingling feeling can have many causes. Common causes of pins and needles feelings are generally pressure, injury, or damage to the nerves. In older people, however, another reason is chronic poor circulation.
While pins and needles can happen in any part of your body, you’re more likely to experience it in your hands, feet, and legs. We’ll focus more on pins and needles in your legs and feet and what this means for you.
Circulation problems occur when the blood supply to your nerves is cut off. Your nerves stop sending signals to your brain about sensation.
When you have pins and needles in your limbs, it’s a warning sign that you need to get the blood flowing better and improve the circulation in your body.
When circulation slows, one of the first things that happen is that fluid accumulates, often in the legs. The fluid itself can put pressure on the nerves and reduce sensation or cause pins and needles.
Over time, this fluid buildup and reduced circulation damage the nerves, blood vessels, valves, and skin of your legs, creating chronic problems.
Conditions that cause pins and needles sensation
While the possible causes of pins and needles can be an extensive list, there are some more common culprits in seniors.
Peripheral neuropathy happens when the nerves that send messages to and from your brain are damaged. Peripheral neuropathy is common in people over age 55. It’s also common in people with diabetes and people with long-standing B12 deficiencies. 30% of people with peripheral neuropathy have diabetes. It’s important to address the medical causes of peripheral neuropathy early on because neuropathy can cause nerve death, which would make it harder to manage your symptoms of pins and needles.
As you get older, your chances of developing diabetes increase. Diabetes is one of the more common causes of pins and needles because the disease damages the small blood vessels in your fingers and toes. As a result, the nerves in your feet become damaged. Your symptoms can range from complete numbness or pain to the pins and needles sensation that is so uncomfortable.
Medication side effects
As we age, we tend to be on more medications. Some of them can cause fluid buildup or nerve damage. The more common medications that can cause painful pins and needles symptoms are heart and blood pressure medicines, antibiotics, and cancer medications. If you have pins and needles in your legs or feet, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medication may be causing it.
Poorly fitting shoes
As we get older, we tend to extend the life of our shoes and wear them out forever. But, as we advance in age, our feet can get smaller or larger. Sometimes our feet get smaller because we lose bone mass. But, we’re more likely to experience swollen feet as our kidneys and heart work harder. Swollen feet can cause our shoes to be tight and put pressure on the nerves of our feet while cutting circulation. Sometimes, getting a pair of shoes that fit better improves pins and needles in our feet.
PAD or Peripheral Artery Disease
PAD is one of the more common reasons you can experience a reduction of blood circulation in your legs and feet. PAD is usually caused by a buildup of plaque or cholesterol in your arteries. As your circulation becomes more affected, your legs and feet may feel cold, and you may experience more pins and needles sensations as well. You might also have other leg pains, and the skin of your legs and feet might change color.
Your kidneys become less efficient as you grow older. Kidney disease is also a by-product of high blood pressure and diabetes. When your kidneys don’t function as well as they should, fluid accumulates in your body, and this causes nerve damage. You’re more likely to have tingling or pins and needles in your legs and feet.
Vitamin B12 or Vitamin D deficiency
It’s not unusual to have deficient vitamin levels of either vitamin as we get older. If our bodies are short on these critical vitamins, we can develop nerve damage and the symptoms of pins and needles pain in our bodies. Ask your physician if he or she has tested your vitamin levels.
A common effect of carrying around extra weight is that your body will naturally put additional pressure on nearby nerves, impacting circulation as well. This can cut off blood supply to the extremities and produce painful symptoms of pins and needles, as well as numbness.
This list isn’t extensive, and there are other causes of pins and needles symptoms. Only your physician can help you determine the cause of your symptoms.
When to See Your Doctor or Get Emergency Help
Any new onset of symptoms or worsening of your symptoms warrants a trip to your doctor. If you’re experiencing pins and needles symptoms often, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. This way, you can learn what’s causing your symptoms and try to find relief.
Your doctor may ask:
- Did a specific circumstance bring on your symptoms?
- How long did your pins and needles symptoms last?
- Have you recently started a new medication?
- Do you have diabetes? (Or, your doctor may test you for the condition)
- Do you drink alcohol regularly? (The symptoms happen more often in people who drink regularly)
Your physician will also do a thorough examination, carefully listening to your heart and checking for pulses in your feet and wrists. They’ll also take note of your blood pressure.
Your physician will also test the function of your nervous system while performing a pinprick test in your limbs to check for sensation. Your doctor is likely to do a blood workup to check for conditions that can cause your symptoms, like diabetes or low B12.
If your doctor feels it’s necessary, he or she may also refer you to have other tests, such as a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) or electromyogram (EMG). These two tests evaluate the function of your nerves and muscles.
Seek emergency care if you also lose power on one side of your body or have marked weakness down one side of your body. This is a sign of a possible stroke.
Finding relief for the symptoms of restless legs
The first course of action towards finding relief is making sure there isn’t an apparent cause for your symptoms. Your physician is best-suited to determine if something’s causing the sensations of pins and needles in your body.
If a cause is found, follow the recommendations from your doctor. Treatment of the root cause is the best first step in bringing your symptoms under control and preventing long-term complications.
Persistent pins and needles, tingling, numbness, burning, itching, or feeling cold can have detrimental effects on your quality of life.
While your doctor focuses on helping you treat the cause of your symptoms, ask them if the following can help relieve your symptoms in the short term:
Do your part in controlling diabetes if you have the condition.
Ask your doctor about the best way to approach your illness from a dietary standpoint and avoid sugar whenever possible.
Avoid or reduce alcohol intake.
Alcohol has a detrimental effect on your nerves and can lead to the symptoms of neuropathy, such as tingling and pins and needles. If you quit drinking alcohol, you may relieve your current symptoms and prevent further deterioration of your nerves.
Correct nutritional deficiencies.
Ask your doctor to evaluate whether or not you’re deficient in certain nutrients. For instance, if you have a low Vitamin B12 level, eat a diet rich in B12, including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and yogurt. If your doctor recommends supplements, take them as instructed.
Lose a few pounds if you’re overweight
This can help put less stress on nerves and improve circulation in your body.
Stop smoking if you do so.
Smoking constricts the blood vessels in the body and, this can prevent the nutrients and oxygen needed to reach the nerves in your legs and feet.
Find ways to improve circulation in your body.
This might simply mean moving around more, whenever safely possible to do so. If you generally lack feeling in your legs or feet, it may be a good idea to use a circulation-boosting product that will do the work for you until you recover.
Pins and needles symptoms and related signs and symptoms are not only uncomfortable. It can diminish the quality of your life, as well as can be dangerous when you’re more active.
But, slowing down to a crawl can only make the problem worse if your circulation comes to a standstill. This is why it’s so important to make sure there’s not a medical reason for your symptoms.
See your doctor and follow their instructions. Ask him or her about the measures we outlined to also help your symptoms.
You should have two goals when it comes to finding relief for your pins and needles symptoms - improving your current symptoms and preventing long-term complications. This is the best way to ensure a more healthy, active, and fulfilling life for you.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended as medical advice. We simply believe in helping people to make informed decisions about their health. We hope to empower you to ask your physician the right questions so you can both agree on a treatment plan that’s right for you.
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