Paresthesia Overview:

Most of us have experienced Paresthesia at some point or the other in our lives without even knowing about it. That feeling of numbness when you consider your arms or legs to have fallen asleep is in medical terms known as paresthesia. It usually affects extremities of the body like the hands, feet, fingers etc, sometimes, joints like the elbow or ankle. In most cases, paresthesia is a harmless case of simply putting undue pressure on the nerve catering to the area of the body. Although keep in mind, if you are experiencing symptoms of paresthesia often, it could be an indication of a larger issue.

Paresthesia Definition:

It goes by many names like the prickling feeling, pins and needles, burning sensation, itching or sometimes even skin crawling or pinched nerve. All of these are colloquial names for the medical term called paresthesia. But what is Paresthesia? It is the numbness in the extremities of the body or other regions of the body as a result of excessive pressure or pressure over time to the nerves supplying to the bodily region.

Symptoms of Paresthesia:

The symptoms include but are not limited to the following:

-  Tingling sensation or “pin and needle” sensation

-  Aches and burning sensation in the affected region

-  Numbness in the body part

-  The notion of the body part, “falling asleep” or temporary loss in sensitivity and motor control

-  Prickling and itching in the body part

-  A mix of hot and cold sensations in the region

While these symptoms are most often limited only to the affected body part, they make at time radiate to regions around as well.

Paresthesia Causes:

Since the cause of paresthesia is pressure on the nerve supplying to the region, relieving the pressure alleviates the feeling as well. Although in some cases this may not happen and the feeling of numbness or another symptom may persist for longer. Some patients with chronic paresthesia also complain of the feeling arising repeatedly.

In cases of acute and chronic paresthesia, here are some of the causes:

-  Having gone through a stroke will strongly affect the chances of having paresthesia is parts of the body that were affected.

-  A multiple sclerosis

-  Tumours in the spinal cord or brain can cause damage to neural pathways and therefore cause numbness in areas of the body

-  In cases, high levels of vitamin D or certain other vitamins can cause paresthesia

-  Diabetes patients and those with high blood pressure are often susceptible to this condition

-  An infection or injury to the nerve can result in long-term cases of paresthesia or chronic cases

-  And of course, most commonly paresthesia is simply caused by a pinched or compressed nerve. Due to high pressure from the tissue surrounding the nerve, its functions are interrupted and these cause paresthesia in mostly extremities of the body like the hands, legs, feet, etc.

-  Carpal tunnel syndrome is the term for pinched nerves that cause tingling and numbness in the fingers.

-  The likelihood of Paresthesia effects on you

-  Here is some data to help you better understand who gets affected by paresthesia.

-  Women due to narrower nerve canals are known to be prone to face paresthesia more often than men. Also, low levels of a certain vitamin or hormonal imbalances can make the body susceptible to paresthesia.

-  Obesity can be a cause to, as the higher amount of weight can put pressure on nerves and often lead to pinched nerve from time to time.

-  In stages of pregnancy, women can experience paresthesia due to the fluid swelling in the body that puts pressure on nerves.

-  Thyroid related problems can affect the chances of experiencing paresthesia.

-  For those with diabetes, nerve and tissue damage can be seen if not taken care of properly, this can further result in chronic cases of paresthesia as well.

-  Rheumatoid Arthritis which causes inflammations can compress nerves in joints and cause paresthesia for prolonged periods at times.

-  You may have experienced a numbness when resting for a prolonged period, which this doesn’t account for a regular duration of a sleep cycle, extended periods in a same lateral position can put pressure on nerves and result in partial paresthesia in the body.

-  If you are in a job or have a hobby that requires long durations of fixed postures, repetitive motions of joints or high strain on nerves, you are likely to often experience paresthesia.

How is it diagnosed?

Since paresthesia is such a common problem faced across a wide population with a range of causes, a doctor will often consult you and your medical history to determine what the causes for you specifically might be. Following some questions about what you may have felt or experienced, the doctor may conduct some physical tests which could include the following:

-  A study to measure the speed at which nerve impulses are being transmitted from your sensory systems to your brain and back. You would have often seen these experiments in popular media as the doctor knocks the patient’s knee to elicit a response. While the test might seem comical due to media stereotypes it is often crucial in determining damage to a nerve.

-  If the doctor detects abnormalcy in the consultation or test so far, they may recommend an EMG, which is an electromyography which provides scans for electrical movement across the neural pathways of the body or region in question. This helps doctors identify areas that might be performing at levels poorer than anticipated.

-  A next level step would include a magnetic resonance imaging or commonly known as MRI to map the body in high detail.

-  An ultrasound can also be the doctors’ recommendation when the area in question is small, such as the fingers in the case of a carpal tunnel syndrome.

The doctor would then prescribe the best course of action based on the results of the test and the consultation with the patient.


-  One can’t avoid a pinched nerve all the time but there are several measures you can take to ensure better health and reduce the likelihood of pinched nerve. Paresthesia prevention requires a mindful lifestyle approach.

-  First and foremost is good body posture. Maintaining good positions when sitting, standing and involved in activities in your day to day life, you can reduce unnecessary pressure on your nerves.

-  Sometimes inconsistent body postures can result in injuries to the nerves and one must be mindful of this. Avoiding such injuries and frequently changing position or posture will avoid undue pressure on nerves which causes paresthesia.

-  Good health will go a long way in preventing a variety of problems. Since paresthesia is caused due to pressure on nerves, maintaining good muscle health and flexibility will greatly reduce the likelihood of experiencing paresthesia.

Treatment of Paresthesia:

-  Paresthesia treatment is often subject to the cause of the problem, in most cases, medical treatment is not required and in several others treating the underlying medical condition causing the problem would relieve the paresthesia as well. Although in some cases of acute paresthesia and chronic paresthesia, doctors may recommend the following treatments:

-  Resting the affected region - if the case of paresthesia persists in a region and if caused due to an activity or lifestyle behaviour. Doctors recommend their patients to take rest and provide support to the affected region for some time. This also includes reducing or eliminating the amount of activity contributing the to the condition. A brace or support band may also be prescribed.

-  Therapies that include building strength in the muscles that surround nerves in areas prone to paresthesia can help in providing a long-term reduction in signs of paresthesia and its symptoms. Increase in muscle strength can help release compression on nerves and also promotes flexibility in the region thereby reducing chances of the experience in the future.

-  In acute cases, doctors would recommend muscle relieving medication to help reduce the pressure on the nerves of the affected area. In paresthesia caused by fibromyalgia, medication such as pregabalin or duloxetine may be prescribed.

-  In extreme cases of paresthesia where the other treatments have been ineffective. The doctor may opt for a surgical operation that will relieve the nerve pressure in the region. The exact type of surgery will depend on the situation and diagnosis by the consulting doctor.


When it comes to paresthesia, it’s very important to ensure you a mindful of the experience and if you notice a high degree of the problem, you consult a doctor. While most experiences of paresthesia will be harmless, you must ensure that you keep a check.

If you are experiencing cases of paresthesia as a result of another medical condition, then you must take active measures to solve those in order to relieve the numbness in your nerves.

Last updated on : 14-09-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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