Tingling extremities is a medical condition known as paresthesis. Commonly, this is what occurs when a person’s arm or legs “goes to sleep.” The truth is an artery or nerve is being pinched by the body and once the compression is relieved, the symptoms disappear and the pressure is relieved. While paresthesis can happen anywhere on the body, it is more common to have the limbs and extremities involved. An uncommon and little known side effect of menopause are these types of tingling extremities and it is usually caused by hormonal changes in the body.
Causes of Paresthesis
Hormonal Causes Paresthesis can happen to anyone, but in the case of menopause, the cause is the fluctuation of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is produced in several areas of the body, such as the adrenal glands, and is responsible for follicle development in the ovaries, sex characteristics of women and other matters relating to female reproduction and development.
Symptoms of Paresthesis
- A “creepy, crawly” sensation
- A feeling of pins and needles
- A buzzing feeling without cause
- Muscular weakness
- Muscular cramps
- Changes in sensation, prickling
- Burning or numbness
- Abnormal reflexes
- Increased sensitivity
- Muscular warmth or cool feeling
- Feeling like you are walking on rocks, but the ground is smooth
- Feeling like there is warm liquid on you
There are three types of estrogen and estrone is the form produced during post-menopause. Sensations from the skin are normally transported from the skin via sensory nerves through the spinal cord, but due to the hormone levels dropping, the hypothalamus fails to do so. These wild fluctuations also lead to a drop in collagen and oil production, leaving the skin thinner and less elastic, a causal effect of tingling in the extremities.
While paresthesis can be disconcerting, it is relatively minor unless the underlying causal condition is serious. Paresthesis can be a symptom of:
- Alcohol and Drugs
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Spinal cord or nerve injury
- Vitamin imbalance
- Autoimmune disorders
- Toxic exposures
- Insufficient blood supply
- Arterial occlusion
- Lyme Disease
When to Seek a Doctor
If paresthesis is accompanied by other symptoms, the sensible course of action is to seek medical advice and treatment. If you do not know what is causing your paresthesis, are urinating more often than normal and notice your numbness worsening when walking, seek attention. Seek immediate medical treatment if tingling is a symptom, along with loss of strength, paralysis, injury to the head, neck and back, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
Daily Lifestyle Changes
- Exercise – Adopting a gentle exercise regime that will increase your physical exertion can make a difference in your paresthesis. Physical activity is a key factor in reducing these sensations because it restores circulation and blood flow to the nerves minimizing any tingling or numbness. Yoga is a wonderful alternative to running or going to the gym.
- Stretch and Massage – It is essential to stretch and massage the affected areas of your paresthesis in order to minimize feelings of pins and needles.
- Don’t Sit For Long Periods of Time – If your job requires you to sit at a desk throughout the day, it is essential to take periodic breaks and walk around. Periodic breaks, stretching and rotating one’s wrists and ankles throughout the day will help alleviate the tingling and numbing sensations.
A simple change in diet along with supplemental vitamins is also an effective tool in mitigating tingling sensations. A food rich in essential fatty acids like nuts, fish, avocados and flaxseed supplies the body with Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9. Topical ointments containing cayenne or capsaicin may be applied for pain relief.
- Stay Hydrated – It is still important to drink at least eight glasses of water a day
- Replenishing Your Diet – Eating more calcium-rich foods, magnesium-rich foods and Vitamin E-foods, like green vegetables, nuts and almonds, are other easily adaptable diet changes to help alleviate numbness
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – Eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Many fish contain Vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient for strong and healthy bones that can help reduce the tingling sensations
- Oils – Use olive oil and sesame oil on your meals, as they are a rich source of essential nutrients that can help reduce the numbness.
For most women, simple lifestyle and dietary changes are often enough to eliminate the uncomfortable sensations associated with paresthesis. For others, it may be necessary to add other treatment options to the list. Simple solutions to an inconvenient sensation will assist in achieving a healthy balance of the body.
- Vitamins - Supplement the diet with vitamin therapy adding Vitamin B complex. Vitamin B-12 occurs in most animal products and is necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system and blood circulation. Recent studies have shown that when an individual is deficient in Vitamin B12, paresthesis is common, along with twitchy eyes and itchy tongue. Thiamine, alpha-lipoid acids and folic acids are also recommended to help manage and prevent paresthesis.
- Alternative Medicine – Chinese medicine (acupuncture) has been a long standing treatment for mood swings around the world. Acupuncture is a medical treatment involving the insertion of sharp sterile needles into the body at specific points according to a mapping of “energy pathways. Because acupuncture brings about restorative processes in the skin and pain receptors, many people afflicted with paresthesis experience increased strength and restored sensory and vascular functions.
- Black Cohosh One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Herbal Remedies – The two commonly known herbs for treating paresthesis are phytoestrogen and non-estrogenic herbs. Some of the most common phytoestrogen herbs are Saint Johns Wort, Black Cohosh and Dong Quai – all which contain estrogenic components produced by plants and replace some of the missing estrogen hormones experienced as a result of menopause. Although these herbs are known to maintain the balance of key neurotransmitters in the brain, they can also make your body less responsive to producing its own hormones, causing a further decrease of one’s hormone levels. Non-estrogenic herbs are known to nourish one’s hormonal glands into producing its own natural hormones. By stimulating one’s own hormone production, non-estrogenic herbs, such as Macafem. Macafem is grown in the Andes of Peru.
- Hormone Therapy Treatments (HRT) – For more severe cases of menopause, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.