What is paresthesia?
First, paresthesia is defined as a burning or tingling sensation in the hands, arms, legs or feet. There are two different types of paresthesia: temporary and chronic. Both cause numbness and tingling in the extremities and other parts of the body.
Temporary paresthesia is what people commonly refer to as one of your limbs falling asleep. It can happen if you sit for too long or lean on your arm. Once you switch positions, the pins and needles feeling will usually go away quickly. Temporary paresthesia typically doesn’t have an underlying cause and can happen to anyone.
If you’re experiencing the sensation of pins and needles on a regular basis, it may be chronic paresthesia. This is typically due to an underlying cause such as nerve damage or a neurological condition.
Causes of paresthesia
When you experience temporary paresthesia, there shouldn’t be cause for concern. If it begins to happen frequently to the point where it’s interrupting your day, it’s time to call the doctor. There are several potential causes of chronic paresthesia, including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Ischemic attacks
- Transverse myelitis
- Nerve damage
Paresthesia and nerve damage
One of the main causes of paresthesia is nerve damage. There are two common types of nerve damage associated with paresthesia:
- Radiculopathy. Radiculopathy is the scientific term for what’s usually known as a pinched nerve. It can occur due to degeneration, a herniated disc or another traumatic injury in the body. When it affects your lower back, it’s referred to as lumbar radiculopathy.
- Peripheral neuropathy. Another reason you may be experiencing paresthesia is peripheral neuropathy. This condition occurs when there is degeneration of peripheral sensory nerves due to an underlying condition. Tingling and numbness in the limbs due to paresthesia are common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
It’s important to tell your doctor right away if you’re experiencing chronic paresthesia. Be sure to tell your physician about any activities you’re involved in that require repetitive movements. After they look at your medical history, your provider will run a series of tests that may include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Nerve conduction study
Treatment for paresthesia
There is no direct treatment for paresthesia since there are so many underlying causes. Treatment will depend on the main cause, and your doctor will create a treatment plan to treat the condition that should also treat paresthesia.
Sometimes all a pinched nerve will need is time to rest, especially if the paresthesia is caused by repetitive use. This gives the tissue time to heal and hopefully resolve the issue.
- Physical therapy
Physical therapy will help you strengthen the muscles that surround the affected area. Stronger muscles can help relieve pressure on the nerves and tissue that are causing paresthesia.
Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can help to decrease inflammation. Your doctor may also prescribe steroid injections for swelling and inflammation.
- Surgical intervention
A surgical procedure can reduce pressure on a pinched nerve to help with paresthesia.
Sometimes paresthesia is unavoidable, especially if it’s caused by an underlying condition such as peripheral neuropathy. You can, however, minimize your risk by:
- Reducing repetitive motion or taking frequent breaks
- Maintaining good posture
- Being mindful of your position when lifting something heavy
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
Temporary paresthesia is very common. If you’re experiencing it regularly, contact your physician to ensure it’s not due to an underlying condition such as peripheral neuropathy.
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- “Paraesthesia and peripheral neuropathy”. PubMed | National Library of Medicine
- “Numbness (Paresthesia and Neuropathy)”. Cleveland Clinic
- “Radiculopathy – Treatments, Types & Symptoms”. Penn Medicine
- “Numbness”. Mayo Clinic