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question

What might cause a pins-and-needles sensation in my fingers?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
answer
The sensation of "pins and needles" is usually due to a nerve problem.

The medical term is parathesias. It may also include shooting pains, numbness or a heavy feeling in an arm or leg. Common causes include:
  • Nerve compression
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency (which impairs nerve function)
  • Diabetes
Although there are other possibilities, your symptoms suggest carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a common cause of a pins and needles sensation in the fingers, especially in the thumb, index and middle fingers. Many say they wake up and have to "shake out" their hands to get rid of the feeling.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is due to the compression of a major nerve (called the median nerve) that travels through a narrow area (the carpal tunnel) in the wrist. Besides pins and needles, some people experience weakness, particularly in the thumb.

Repetitive motion may be a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome. But studies that looked at people who use repetitive hand or wrist motions have been mixed on whether their risk of carpal tunnel syndrome is truly increased.

Treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome include:
  • Treating or removing any underlying trigger
  • Wearing a splint that keeps the wrist relatively straight
  • Cortisone injections
  • Surgery (as a last resort)
See your doctor for an evaluation and to review your treatment options.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.