Profile of Paraesthesia

March 2, 2017



I am electric. I am attune to every jolt of energy passing quickly along the length of my hand, jumping between my fingertips. I vibrate with sensation. I can not explain it more than that.

You want to know how it feels? Like pin pricks, sharp and thin, quicker than light.


It is called paraesthesia - a strange word that describes the strangest sensations.


Paraesthesia. The word can be broken into two parts: para, meaning 'alongside, irregular,' and aisthēsis, or 'sensation.'


Paraesthesia can be defined as 'an abnormal sensation, typically tingling or pricking (“pins and needles”), caused chiefly by pressure on or damage to peripheral nerves.'  


It can be caused by a host of factors, ranging from vitamin deficiency or pinched nerve to bone marrow or connective tissue disorders and tumors. It can be a side effect of medications (even a side effect of medication used to treat it!), it can be caused by anxiety, it can be the cause of anxiety ...


Pretty much, it could be nothing to worry about or everything to worry about, it might go away and it might not, and there nothing conclusive to say about it except that it feels weird.


It can best be characterized through metaphor or example.


Below are some of the ways I have tried to explain it:



1. Pins-and-needles.


This is the classic, description and easiest for people to relate to. You know that feeling when, maybe you've been sitting in the same position too long and your foot 'falls asleep,' or starts to prickle in that way we call 'pins and needles?' Congrats. You have experienced temporary paraesthesia. 

What I have is something vaguely like that, most of the time, that no amount of banging-the-foot or movement will relieve. I've tried.


2. Electric current radiating up and down; mild electrocution.


Sometimes when you touch certain objects you experience an electric shock, finger-zap feeling. 

Sometimes when I move, or don't move, I feel an electric shock throughout my legs. It also feels like there is a static field around my legs? Not sure how to better describe that one.


3.  When your hands are really cold and then you go inside and put them under warm water and they tingle.


Or when you have been outside in the cold, maybe on a long walk or playing in the snow ... and your skin is cold and flushed. You remove your coat, your boots and socks, and as you begin to warm up your body tingles as sensation returns.


I have this feeling often, and it has technically still been winter, but it is also in the 60s and 70s in Tel Aviv. 


4. Numbness.


Have you had your wisdom teeth removed? Personally I've blocked out my memory of that experience - I have vague recollections of sitting on the kitchen floor crying and forcing myself to eat mashed potatoes so I could take my Vicodin - but before the teeth are removed, the dentist will anesthetize the area around it. Anesthetics block nerves that connect to a particular body part or region of the brain, leading to a loss of sensation or 'numb' feeling. 

I can feel touch and pressure, but sensations are sometimes dulled or distorted in that numbed way. 


5. Cold water poured on leg.


Literally can feel like someone is pouring cold water on legs.


6. Walking around wearing wet socks -


is generally an uncomfortable and avoidable action. I often feel like I am wearing a pair of wet socks or have something wrapped around my feet.


8. Body is nervous and trembling.


On rare occasions, before something that makes me particularly nervous or anxious, my whole body shakes or has an inner tremor. 


My legs have developed an anxiety disorder (independent of my anxiety) -- they secretly tremble and shake no matter what I am doing or how I am feeling.


9. Heavy like lead.


Limbs feel weighed down or feel like there is a compression band wrapped around different parts of legs.


10. Skin crawling.


There is a medical term, 'formication,' for the sensation of insects crawling on or under the skin. (Eek!)


I don't know if I would describe what I feel as insects crawling, but the restlessness has a creeping energy to it, perhaps borderline akin to the insect feeling.


I do not feel all of these sensations at once or all the time; my body always feels strange but there are different qualities and nuances to the strangeness. Lately the sensation has mostly been a radiating vibration, like a tuning fork.










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