Do Your Feet or Hands Fall Asleep? You May Have Pinched Nerves.

neck pain

Your nerves are an amazing network within your body. Nerves deliver sensory information and movement instructions from your body to your brain. But compression, also called squeezing, of a nerve disrupts these functions. This is called a pinched nerve, and it can result in tingling, numbness or pain.

Why is there tingling in my foot or hand?

“When you feel numbness or tingling in your foot or hand, it is commonly said to be ‘asleep’
or with a feeling of ‘pins and needles.’ That sensation is called temporary paresthesia,” said Jonathan Bussey, DO, MPH, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Penn Highlands Neurosurgery. “It tends to happen when irritation or compression of the nerves cuts off the connection between your brain and the nerves in the affected area.”

This compression often occurs when you leave your arm, foot or hand in one position for a long time. For instance, you may remember putting one foot under your leg or while crossing your legs. Temporary paresthesia is not harmful since the connection between your nerves and brain is restored quickly after you change positions.

What is a pinched nerve?

While temporary paresthesia is typically caused by compression from the position our body is in, nerve compression in a pinched nerve is caused by pressure from surrounding tissues. When those tissues press on nerve roots, they can cause pain, numbness and tingling throughout your body.

Some of the more common places you can experience a pinched nerve in your body are:

  • Cervical nerves (neck and shoulder)
  • Thoracic and lumbar nerves (back and upper chest)
  • Ulnar nerve (arm and elbow)
  • Wrist and hand (often caused by carpal tunnel syndrome)

What are the symptoms of a pinched nerve?

Symptoms of a pinched nerve may include:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area affected
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, possibly radiating outward
  • Tingling, pins and needles sensations
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area
  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has fallen asleep
  • Worsening symptoms when sleeping

Will a pinched nerve go away on its own?

With time, most pinched nerves will go away within four to six weeks. Rest, in addition to pain medications such as naproxen, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help alleviate symptoms in the meantime.

When should I see a doctor?

“If the signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve last for several days and do not respond to self-care measures, it is wise to see your healthcare provider,” said Dr. Bussey.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers spine specialists who can evaluate back pain and neck pain and diagnose pinched nerves. Penn Highlands neurosurgeons have extensive training and experience in treating all types of spine and nerve problems, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease and more. If you are suffering from nerve pain, they will order imaging tests and determine if nonsurgical or surgical treatment is required. To learn more, visit