When you feel itching, tingling, pricking, or numbness in your extremities it’s called paresthesia. It’s the feeling you get when your hand or foot “falls asleep.” Prolonged pressure on nerves or blood vessels can cause paresthesia. Often, all you need to do is shift positions or walk around, and the sensations disappear. If changing positions doesn’t alleviate the feeling, you may have a more complicated nerve condition called peripheral neuropathy or damage to the nerves in your extremities.
There are many reasons that people develop peripheral neuropathy. Some of the more common ones include:
- Pressure on the nerve
- Nerve damage through injury
- Lack of blood flow to the nerve
- Toxins like alcohol or lead
- Autoimmune diseases
- Low thyroid levels
Why it Affects the Hands and Feet
Neuropathy is common in the hands and feet because the nerves and blood vessels in these parts of the body are small and more susceptible to changes in the body. Hands and feet are also injured more often than other body parts. They’re also the farthest from the source of blood, so your extremities often suffer the most when there are circulation problems. Reduced circulation makes you more likely to develop neuropathy and makes it more challenging for your body to heal the affected area.
Coping With the Symptom
If you have peripheral neuropathy, your hands and feet may become hypersensitive to changes in pressure and temperature as well. Protecting your body from temperature extremes on both ends of the spectrum will help you be more comfortable.
Cold: During the cold winter, your body draws blood out of your hands and feet to keep your torso warm and protect your vital organs. Increase circulation to your extremities by keeping warm with these tips.
- Try keeping your home at a comfortable temperature so your body doesn’t need to raise your core temperature.
- Wear suitable gloves, thick socks, and warm, well-cushioned, waterproof shoes when going outside.
- Try to go out in the middle of the day when it’s as warm as possible.
Heat: During the summer, avoid getting too hot.
- Stay in temperature-controlled environments when possible.
- Plan your outings in the morning or late evening when the heat isn’t so intense.
- Take warm baths rather than hot ones to lessen the shock to your nerves.
- Likewise, a temperature-controlled indoor pool will be less of a shock to your nerves than jumping into an icy ocean or lake.
Pressure: Tiny changes in pressure can cause pain, even barometric pressure or the weight of a blanket when you’re trying to sleep. This hypersensitivity is common, but there are things you can do to get neuropathy pain relief.
- Make sure shoes are well cushioned and the tread isn’t too worn in any spot so that your feet strike the ground evenly when walking.
- Keep your bedroom at a constant temperature. Temperature changes can cause flare-ups, even the natural decrease in temperature your body experiences when you shut down for the night. Keep the room at a constant temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust your covers so you don’t get overheated under a blanket, making you more sensitive to the weight.
- Sitting, standing, or lying in one position too long can increase neuropathy symptoms. At the first sign of increased discomfort, get up and move around or roll over in bed to give the nerves a break.
Exercise: Slow, gentle movements can improve circulation, relax the surrounding tissues, and release nerves under pressure.
- Gently manipulate your foot by lifting the toes while your heel is on the floor. Lift the heel, spread your toes apart, and roll your ankle. Do a few repetitions, but don’t overdo it. Slowly add more repetitions as your feet get used to it.
- Gently manipulate your hands and wrists in a like manner. Spread your fingers apart, then roll your wrists. Very gently place your fingers in the palm of the other hand and pull the fingers back to stretch the underside of the wrist. Then, gently bend the hand downward and hold it with the other hand to stretch the top of the wrist.
Note: (If any motion causes pain, immediately stop the exercise and talk to your provider before continuing. Not every peripheral neuropathy patient is the same. Some activities may exacerbate your symptoms. Your provider can recommend exercises depending on the type of nerve damage and your personal health conditions.)
Learn What Works for You
Pins and needles can be uncomfortable and hard to ignore, but there are things you can do to manage your symptoms and feel more comfortable. Some tips may work for you better than others. It helps to journal your symptoms and physical reactions to various treatments to learn what works best for you.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to texts, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article are for informational purposes only. None of the material mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.