There are a few reasons why you might feel tingling during exercise or your body tingling after a workout, including a lack of nutrients or fatigue. These symptoms can be harmless or they may signal that you are pushing too hard.
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If you experience lightheadedness or dizziness that makes you feel like passing out, muscle spasms or mental disturbances, contact emergency medical services immediately.
If you've ever become lightheaded and have arms tingling during or after exercise, the experience can be alarming. You may experience dizziness and feel like you might lose your balance. You could have visual disturbances, such as what people call "seeing stars." These symptoms are often harmless, but it's important to recognize the signs of possible danger.
When Is Tingling During Exercise Dangerous?
Normal tingling of the arms or hands is a feeling that most people are accustomed to. This can happen when circulation is restricted and is called "falling asleep" or "pins and needles." The technical term for the sensation, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is paresthesia. It can feel like a burning or prickling in the hands, arms, legs or feet, but it may occur anywhere.
Paresthesia is typically painless, although it can feel very uncomfortable. When a nerve encounters constant pressure, then paresthesia can result. The effect vanishes fairly quickly after pressure is eliminated.
Sometimes people experience chronic paresthesia, which is typically a sign of an underlying neurological disease or traumatic nerve damage. Conditions that affect the central nervous system, such as strokes, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, a tumor or lesion, which compresses the spinal cord or brain, may cause paresthesia.
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, then nerve entrapment can cause paresthesia as well as pain. Speak to your healthcare provider to determine the exact cause.
Be Aware of Nutrient Deficiencies
Another warning sign that your pins and needles sensation is something more insidious includes a vitamin B12 deficiency. Paresthesia can be caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12 and include feelings of pain and numbness, according to a June 2019 article published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes.
If you are a strict vegetarian or a vegan, have had bariatric surgery or an older adult, your risk of vitamin B12 deficiency is higher than that of the average population, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Severe vitamin B12 deficiency may cause further symptoms like depression, paranoia, delusions, memory loss, the loss of taste or smell and incontinence. Food sources of vitamin B12 include meat, poultry, dairy, eggs and other animal products. Strict vegetarians and vegans who are experiencing these symptoms should speak to their health care providers about adding supplements to their diet.
Furthermore, be conscious of vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by low-calorie diets. An August 2015 review article published in Revista de Chimie found that all patients undergoing a low calorie diet had such deficiencies.
The researchers recommend being very careful with food quality during low calorie dieting. Even better, get supervision and guidance from a health care professional if you are attempting to eat at calorie levels lower than 1,200 calories for a woman or 1,500 for a man.
Keep Your Electrolytes in Check
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, vitamin deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances may cause numbness and tingling in your arms, hands and other body parts. An imbalance of calcium, potassium or sodium in your body can cause both lightheadedness and tingling or numbness.
As Kaiser Permanente explains, if the electrolytes in your body are too high or low, dizziness cramps, lightheadedness and tingling may occur. Maintaining a proper electrolyte balance is especially important if you participate in long-duration or intense exercise. When you sweat, you need to replace the electrolytes lost. Electrolyte imbalances can become life-threatening without appropriate treatment.
If you experience fatigue, muscle twitches, spasms, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness that won't go away and your symptoms progress to mental disturbances, irregular heart rate or even a seizure, call for emergency care. Those with diabetes, kidney disease or heart disease are at a higher risk of having electrolyte imbalances. People who have eating disorders or follow extremely low-calorie diets may also experience electrolyte and mineral imbalances.
You May Have POTS
A condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) can be the cause of feeling lightheaded when standing up too quickly, explains the Cleveland Clinic. This condition is most commonly experienced by young women and may cause dizziness or even fainting during exercise.
Some people may find relief from their symptoms if they stick to exercise. However, others may need medication. Speak to your health care provider if you think you may have this condition.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends doing aerobic exercises because they are not as gravitationally challenging for those with POTS. Using a recumbent bike, a rowing machine or a seated stair climber can help limit the possibility of fainting.
In the case of strength training, stick to seated positions when working the lower body, such as the leg press. Strengthening the lower body muscles can help reduce the pooling of blood in your legs. Over time, you may be able to progress to upright positions when exercising. Seek the guidance of your health care provider.
Beware of Pushing Too Hard
Harvard Health Publishing describes some possible signs that you might be pushing too hard during exercise: chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness or joint pain. It is not recommended that you push through the exercise that causes these symptoms.
Be sure to contact your health care provider to get advice regarding these symptoms. You could have an underlying condition that affects your heart, which could be dangerous.
Any lightheadedness that causes you to feel like you might faint could be due to dehydration or blood pressure medication. Your blood pressure reaches its lowest point typically within 30 to 60 minutes after exercising.
If you take blood pressure medication and exercise, you may feel lightheaded. This lightheadedness may also point to underlying problems with your heart or lungs, or it could be a sign of stroke or brain tumor in rare cases. Speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have.
Read more: The Side Effects of Excessive Exercise
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Numbness and Tingling"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Electrolyte Disturbances"
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Paresthesia Information Page"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Do You Get Dizzy When You Exercise — or Stand Up Quickly?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Safe Exercise: Know the Warning Signs of Pushing Too Hard"
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes: "The Many Faces of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency"
- Revista de Chemie: "Low Calorie Diet- the Impact of Vitamins and Minerals Intake to Overweight and Obese Patients"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.