Imagine this – You are lying curled up on the sofa watching reruns of your favorite show and before you realize it, one episode follows another and you’re nearly done with the season. Attempting to get up after this can be quite a struggle, especially if you experience that uncomfortable tingling sensation in your legs that is familiar to most of us. You hop around on one foot trying to get rid of those thousand pinpricks. But what is really going on when your limbs ‘fall asleep’?
The Science Behind ‘Pins And Needles’
“Sitting in the same position for a prolonged period causes compression of nerves in body parts subject to pressure, disrupting nerve signals from those areas to the brain”
Known in the medical world as ‘paresthesia’, the heavy tingling feeling is actually the result of a combination of blockage of neural passages and compression of the arteries. Sitting in the same position for a prolonged period causes compression of nerves in those body parts subject to pressure – usually your hands and legs.
Because nerves are responsible for transmitting electrochemical impulses that aid communication between body parts, when those nerves are compressed, communication to the brain is temporarily disrupted.
“When you start moving after a long period, connectivity is suddenly restored, causing the prickly sensation we describe as pins and needles”
An analogy to understand this would be a garden hose that when twisted restricts the flow of water. Similarly, when the nerves of a region are compressed, transmission of electrical impulses is restricted. As a result, the brain has no way to interpret what sensation the region is experiencing.
This happens most commonly in the lower extremities because fibular nerve that goes around the knee gets directly impacted when people sit with their legs crossed for long periods of time. When you start moving around again, pressure on the region is relieved, restoring sensation and causing the prickly sensation we describe as ‘pins and needles’.
Contrary to popular belief the problem does not surface because of blood flow cut off, but there is a reduction in blood flow that contributes to the sensation.
How To Get Rid Of This Strange Sensation?
If you want to get rid of the feeling faster, you can start shaking your arms and legs or massaging them, as this will increase blood flow to the affected nerves more quickly. As interesting as this scientific phenomenon is, it is not a cause for concern unless the problem seems to be chronic, in which case it may require medical attention.
So, the next time you see someone hobbling around the room shaking their limbs to get rid of this strange sensation, show off your knowledge by enlightening them on the biology behind it!
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