By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Do you sometimes feel, out of the blue, like someone just stuck a pin in your finger or your toe? Do you often suffer from a tingly feeling in a limb that is just like tiny pins are jabbing your skin?
Feeling like pins are pricking you is a disturbing sensation. The phantom pin pricks may last just a fraction of a second or persist for hours. What causes the feeling that pins are pricking you? Is there anything you can do to get rid of this unsettling sensation?
What Causes a Pin Prick Sensation?
The term “pins and needles” is probably familiar to most of us. You get this feeling when the blood supply is cut off to a certain part of the body, usually caused by pressure – you may sit on your hand and then feel your skin prickly and numb as the nerves lack blood supply. The sensation of feeling pins and needles is called "paraesthesia".
Wearing tight socks or shoes can cause a pin prick sensation, and usually taking the pressure off the area causes the feeling to go away.
Sometimes, however, you can feel like a single pin is pricking your skin, or the prickly feeling of pins and needles lasts a long time and is not brought on by pressure. The feeling of pins pricking your skin can be brought on by a number of different health conditions such as diabetes or carpal tunnel syndrome --- conditions that affect the peripheral nerves.
Symptoms of "Pin Prick" Neuropathies
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, neuropathies are dysfunctions of the peripheral nerves; the nerves that lie outside of the brain and the spinal cord. When a sensory nerve is impaired, muscle strength and movement are affected and a common symptom is pain – and the pain often comes in the form of a pin prick sensation. Pin prick sensations indicate that the small-fiber sensory nerves are involved, and other symptoms can include numbness, tingling, and weakness.
We looked at a range of conditions that can cause a pin prick sensation on the skin, and find out which natural remedies help to relieve the pain and discomfort of this common symptom.
1. Treat Sarcoidosis to Remove the Pin Prick Sensation
Sarcoidosis occurs when inflammatory cells in the lungs, eyes, lymph nodes and skin grow, causing a range of symptoms including skin issues like rash, color changes, and a pin prick pain sensation.
A 2012 study from New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, UK describes a case of sarcoidosis in a 57-year-old man “who presented with neurological symptoms of pins and needles in both of his hands, left leg weakness and left foot drop.”
A 2006 study from the University of Florence, Italy shows that melatonin is a safe and effective treatment for sarcoidosis, which is often unresponsive to other treatments. In the study, skin lesions disappeared from patients after 24 months and there were no side effects.
2. Peripheral Neuropathy Can Cause a Pin Prick Sensation
Peripheral neuropathy is usually caused by diabetes, where a high level of blood sugar affects the nerves leading to your feet and hands. This can cause pain, numbness, and a feeling like pins are pricking your skin.
A 1997 study from Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina shows that pins and needles is one common symptom of the condition.
The supplement acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is believed to be useful for treating peripheral neuropathy and the associated pin prick feeling, according to a 2006 study from Washington University Pain Center and Department of Anesthesiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. (Acetyl carnitine also helps to prevent your brain from aging rapidly.)
3. Get Rid of Pin Pricks Caused by Raynaud's Disease
Raynaud's disease is a common condition and it can cause the temporary feeling of being pricked with pins. Raynaud's disease provokes problems for the fingers and the toes by reducing blood supply to these areas, and is usually triggered by cold, stress, or anxiety.
Treat this cause of pin pricks to the skin by keeping yourself warm and avoiding stress.
In addition, a 2002 study from Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, Dundee, UK demonstrates that gingko helps increase circulation in the fingertips and is therefore an effective remedy for Raynaud’s (albeit at a very high dose of 120 mg, three times daily).
4. Control Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to Remove a Pin Prick Feeling
Carpal tunnel syndrome is an experience of pain or discomfort in your hand that is caused by a pressure build-up in the carpal tunnel – the narrow tunnel that links your wrist with your palm. It is associated with a lot of time spent on the computer or doing repetitive tasks with the hands.
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes tingling and numbness as well as a pin prick sensation. Acupuncture is believed to help when it comes to treating pins and needles caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
A 2011 study by Kuang Tien General Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan found people receiving acupuncture experienced greater improvements in their carpal tunnel symptoms than people taking medication.
5. Vitamin B12 Deficiency May Cause A Feeling Like Pins Pricking Your Skin
Around 10 to 20 percent of seniors have a vitamin B12 deficiency, according to a 1995 study from University Hospital Leiden, The Netherlands, and it is much more common in older people probably because they have lower levels of stomach acid that is needed to absorb vitamin B12 from food.
Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage, which can result in an unwelcoming pins and needles sensation in the skin.
To keep your levels of vitamin B12 high, eat plenty of foods rich in the vitamin like clams, beef liver, fortified cereal, trout, and tuna.
6. Treat Multiple Sclerosis to Treat the Pins and Needles
Multiple sclerosis affects the covering of the nerve fibers in the brain and also in the spinal cord. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) include weakness, difficulty walking, fatigue, and numbness – sometimes a pin prick feeling is felt in the limbs.
Feeling pins and needles is unlikely to be the first sign of MS, but if you already have the condition you may be experiencing a pin prick feeling from time to time.
A scientist called RL Swank believed that a low fat diet replacing all saturated fat with unsaturated fat can help MS sufferers. Swank, in a 1970 study, found that those people following the diet closely for 20 to 34 years developed less disability than others.
7. Guillain-Barré Syndrome Sometimes Causes a Pin Prick Sensation
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder so it is unlikely that if you experienced pins and needles you are experiencing this serious condition. But one of the first symptoms of the disorder is a tingling or pin prick sensation in the legs.
This continues in intensity until the muscles are weakened to the point of paralysis. Again, it is extremely unlikely that pins and needles is caused by this syndrome, which usually affects a person after infection with a respiratory or gastrointestinal condition. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says only one person in 100,000 is likely to get the disease.