SEP 24, 2016 7:27 AM PDT

On Pins and Needles: What

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

If you're like me, you like to sit cross-legged or tuck your legs underneath you. But while this is comfortable for the first 5 to 10 minutes, inevitably my legs will start going numb. Then just as I'm readjusting and straightening my legs, the prickly "pins and needles" sensation sets in. The pain is uniquely exquisite and quite strange. What causes these prickly sensations?

While most people may think the lack of blood flow is to blame, that's not the whole story. Furthermore, there aren't any pain receptors associated with blood, so the sensation is all in your head. In particular, putting weight on the legs or sitting cross-legged actually pinches the nerves in the legs. Numbness sets in when brain signals can't get to the foot. Then when you realize it and shift your weight, the signals flow again, but your brain still has to catch up. This uncoordinated process intensifies and numbs the signals simultaneously, creating the telltale tingly or burning sensation. Fortunately, these only last for a few seconds to a few minutes before the brain is acclimated again.
About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 10, 2020
Plants & Animals
3M Helps Solve Polar Bear Tracking Problem
DEC 10, 2020
3M Helps Solve Polar Bear Tracking Problem
As climate change continues to alter the Arctic landscape, polar bear research becomes more urgent. Observing animals in ...
JAN 04, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
JAN 04, 2021
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
Researchers have found that there were likely many intelligent alien civilizations sprawled across our galaxy billions o ...
MAR 31, 2021
Plants & Animals
Spring Winds Following Warmer Winters Cause Mass Jellyfish Strandings
MAR 31, 2021
Spring Winds Following Warmer Winters Cause Mass Jellyfish Strandings
Beachgoers are certainly not fond of jellyfish in the water, but seeing hundreds of them wash ashore is an interesting a ...
APR 01, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Detect X-rays from Uranus for First Time
APR 01, 2021
Astronomers Detect X-rays from Uranus for First Time
Until now, astronomers had detected X-rays from every planet in our solar system apart from the two Ice Giants: Uranus a ...
MAY 13, 2021
Plants & Animals
Brood X Cicadas Are Here - Help Scientists Track Them
MAY 13, 2021
Brood X Cicadas Are Here - Help Scientists Track Them
Download this smartphone app to help document one of North America's natural wonders.
JUL 03, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Size of Planet Iron Core Depends on Star Magnetism
JUL 03, 2021
Size of Planet Iron Core Depends on Star Magnetism
Researchers led by the University of Maryland have found that the sun's magnetic field is the reason behind the larg ...
Loading Comments...