You are sitting cross-legged on the floor or curled up on the sofa watching a DVD. As soon as you stand up you get struck by this immense tingling sensation and you can not take a step. You realize then that your foot has “fallen asleep” and you have to hop around like a rabbit with one foot until the sensation goes away.
So what really causes this immense pins and needles sensation to your feet? Whenever sustained pressure is placed on your distal limbs such as your feet and your hands then this can cause two things to happen. Either arteries or veins can become compressed which means they are unable to supply your skin and nerves with the oxygen and glucose it needs.
On other occasions nerve pathways become blocked which in turn prevents electrochemical impulses to the brain. This can happen if you have placed enough pressure on a foot to pinch a nerve and cause the nerve to stop firing which causes a chain reaction of other nerves firing excessively. The brain then receives gets mixed signals as burning and tingling takes over your foot. This sensation is known as paresthesia.
When you start hopping around the pressure on the nerves and arteries is released which allows the blood to supply the area with much needed nutrients. The sensation often intensifies before normal transmission of electrochemical impulses resume and you can finally put weight on your foot!
Now most people dread this sensation but its actually good for you, if we did not feel discomfort and pins and & needles then we would not adjust our body and the restriction of blood flow could cause permanent damage to your feet. So the next time this happens you should thank your feet for working!
The most obvious step is to release pressure from your foot, so remove it from its current position. In some cases a foot can fall asleep due to laces being too tight, in which case you should loosen your laces and if possible take off your shoes. Prevention is better than treatment so try and avoid sitting on your feet and crossing your legs because both of these positions compress nerves. Also change positions frequently if you are sitting for an extended period of time.
Shake your foot gently to wake it up.
Massage your feet if they start to feel tingly or cramped. Sometimes before your feet actually fall asleep you get a hint that it is happening. Changing positions and massaging your feet helps to prevent them from falling asleep.
As the pins and needles decreases try and walk and put pressure on the affected foot. Do not try and walk on the foot immediately as the pain may cause you to not to be able to support your weight and you may fall down.
It may be beneficial to soak your foot in warm (not hot) water.
Your foot falling asleep for several minutes is not a cause for concern. However, if your foot or any other body part stays asleep for more than a couple of hours you could suffer from nerve damage. If the tingling lasts for more than a couple of hours, go see your doctor.
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