A feeling of pins and needles is a commonly described symptom from patients with a pinched nerve. In fact, everyone has experienced this in minor form if they have ever sat on their foot or slept in an odd position. For patients dealing with a chronic pinched nerve condition, the tingling, numbness and shooting pains that accompany nerve compression are far from temporary.
While the pins and needles sensation from a pinched nerve might not be as severe or debilitating as other symptoms, it can still be alarming and uncomfortable to live with, leading many patients to find out why this is happening to them. More importantly, knowing the root causes of this condition can help doctors and patients develop a targeted and effective treatment plan for this symptom.
What is a pins and needles sensation from a pinched nerve?
Spinal pinched nerves occur when a part of the spine — like a disc, bone spur or swollen joint — becomes displaced and compresses the central spinal cord or a nerve root.
While local pain in the neck or back is an extremely common symptom of pinched nerves, it is also possible for patients to experience radiating symptoms — also known as radiculopathy. Radiating symptoms happen because a pinched nerve in one area can cause associated symptoms in another part of the body that is on the same nerve pathway.
For example, a pinched nerve in the lower back can cause radiating symptoms — like the pins and needles sensation — in the hips, buttocks and legs.
Why it’s important to seek treatment
Tingling sensations that feel like pins and needles on the skin is a sign nerve malfunction and could be a sign of permanent nerve damage. If you are experiencing this and other symptoms that you suspect are related to a pinched nerve, see your primary care physician for diagnosis and treatment.
The first step in pinched nerve care is usually conservative treatments like the following:
- Intermittent periods of rest
- Alternating heat and ice packs
- Physical therapy
- Lifestyle changes like diet, exercise and quitting smoking
Patients dealing with a persistent pins and needles sensation from a pinched nerve who have exhausted conservative options may become candidates for back surgery.
In addition to traditional open back surgery — which requires a large incision to access the spine and decompress a pinched nerve — many surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures. Minimally invasive spine surgery uses state-of-the-art technology allow surgeons access to the spine with a smaller incision, which leads to a shorter recovery time and less scarring than traditional open spine surgery.
If it looks like surgery is your best course of treatment, ask your doctor or specialist for a recommendation for minimally invasive spine surgery.