I've had many people mention that they wake up with painful pins and needles in their hands. It's easy to dismiss this annoying symptom or 'body signal' because you'll find you can just shake it out and within a couple of minutes your fingers feel like your own again.
Most cases of numbness or pins and needles are due to too much stretch/pressure on nerves or the blood vessels that supply the nerves. All too often I have found that nighttime pins and needles are the early indicators of an underlying structural issue with the spine, particularly your neck and developing musculoskeletal dysfunction in the shoulder and elbow (ie rotator cuff issues, tennis and/or golfer's elbow, cubital and carpal tunnel syndromes).
Slumped forwards position of the head and shoulders forces the muscles of the neck and back to tighten up and work hard to support the weight of the head. If this is happening in you or people you know, you will notice that the upper spine is pulled into an awkward stooped bend through which the spinal cord and nerve roots run.
The nerves can get irritated as a result of this mechanical tension.
Stretch has been shown to be one of the most irritating things for nerves and sustained traction alters the ability of nerves to work properly over time. If the stretch is bad enough you can commonly experience symptoms such as pain, pins & needles, numbness and muscle weakness.
In this blog I will discuss a few common conditions which cause pins and needles and give you my initial advice to help this irritating condition - a simple tip that may help you tonight.
To investigate the underlying cause of someone's night time pins and needles I rule out what we call 'red flags' - indicators of conditions which require immediate further medical investigation, and begin by assessing their body as a whole because we know that the body works as a single, synchronous functioning unit. Put simply this means that altered or twisted posture in one area of the body will always cause other areas to compensate in order to keep the body upright and functioning as best possible.
My first line of thinking and questioning when someone tells me they're getting pins and needles is this individual's posture, working and sleeping positions irritating the nerves in the neck and/or arm? There are several relatively simple reasons why the nerves to your hands become irritated and for these, ABCTM works really well. Many people have felt some degree of relief after their first visit and making necessary ergonomic changes.
ABCTM has Great results with...
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS):
This is a condition where, typically the median nerve which supplies sensation and muscle power to the hands, becomes stretched or trapped as it passes through the (carpal) tunnel of bones of the wrist. For many sufferers of CTS the classic stretches, exercises, wrist splints and resting the hand won't cure the pain and they reluctantly opt for surgery as a final option.
Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS):
TOS is a condition whereby symptoms are produced from compression of nerves or blood vessels, or both as they pass behind the upper ribs, through the space (thoracic outlet) between the base of the neck and the armpit.
Poor sleeping position:
This may sound pretty obvious and I'm sure you've already tried changing your pillow and/or even your mattress to try and stop the pins & needles. Getting the perfect pillow is tricky (and it can cost you rather a lot too).
We're all different shapes and sizes so a pillow that helps one person isn't guaranteed to help the next. Joint restriction and postural twisting of the whole spine (that we may not be aware of) must be taken into account when finding the perfect position for your head and neck.
Get this right and you have a much better chance of having a restful, unbroken night's sleep. Ah bliss!
Try this ABC tip tonight...
As an initial temporary fix I advise people to take their thinnest pillow, then using trial and error build up layers of towels underneath it. This creates a firm base for your pillow until you reach what feels like a 'sweet spot' for the height that's right for you.
Stand facing a full length mirror and notice whether your head is level, shoulders, rib cage, hips, knees and legs look either even, tilted or rotated.
Take a good breath in, out and relax - watch for any tilting of your shoulders and ribs as you breathe and any areas of your chest and abdomen that look like they are 'folding' or slumping/ buckling.
This simple self-assessment of how 'wonky' your body is will give you the first insight as to whether your posture is contributing to your symptoms.
A fully certified ABCTM practitioner will be able to give you a thorough assessment and indication of whether ABCTM can help you. Find your nearest practitioner here.
I advised a new client, whom I haven't seen yet, about the correct set up of her pillow. She emailed me two days later...
"Hi Sarah, I had to let you know that I folded one towel and placed under my pillow and have had best sleeps ever on last 2 nights." Mrs D.
Clients who come to the clinic because of pins and needles and various associated discomfort will typically report back that their symptoms gradually disappear anywhere between their second visit and two weeks into care.
"I haven't had the pins and needles in my hand since coming to see you, the pain in my shoulder is a lot less than it was and my curled up toes are now straighter too!" Mrs M.
In all the above cases a thorough physical examination is essential when you are experiencing pins and needles in your hands as there are some potentially serious underlying reasons that need to be ruled out before a diagnosis is made.