Don't let your workout leave you on pins and needles. That prickly feeling in your forearm during your push-up routine, known as paresthesia, is something almost everyone has experienced from time to time.
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Paresthesia is usually harmless, but if it happens often, it could be an indicator of a neurological issue. Look for other symptoms of more serious conditions like poor circulation, carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome, heart attack or stroke.
Pins and Needles
Paresthesia is an uncomfortable tingling sensation in your forearm and that can occur anywhere. If you've ever fallen asleep on your arm, you've felt the burning, tingling, prickling sensation attributed to paresthesia. Paresthesia occurs when there's sustained pressure on a nerve, and can occur during a push-up.
Normally, push-ups shouldn't cause the symptoms of paresthesia, but an overuse injury that causes swelling or inflammation in your forearms could press abnormally on the nerves in your forearm, causing that tingling feeling you get when you're doing push-ups. Mayo Clinic attributes paresthesia to repetitive movements — in this case, push-ups.
Avoiding the Tingle
If your paresthesia occurs only when you're doing push-ups, your forearms are likely overworked from your exercise routine. A small amount of muscle tearing during exercise is normal, but chronic overuse of a muscle during exercise can cause inflammation and swelling, which will only get worse with continued use.
Rest days, ice, compression sleeves, elevation and painkillers can all be used to treat an overused muscle in your forearm. Try limiting the number of forearm push-ups you're performing until you can gauge how the frequency and difficulty of your push-up routine affects the muscles in your forearms. In time, you can also try push-up variations for your forearms like the close-grip, incline push-ups or decline and finger push-ups.
Tingling All The Time
If the tingle in your forearm doesn't go away after your push-up routine, it could be a red flag for something more serious. The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke attributes paresthesia to a host of other much more serious conditions, such as stroke and transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes), multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis and encephalitis.
These disorders of the central nervous system can also cause the misfire in your nerves that manifests as pins and needles. Thoracic outlet syndrome can also cause paresthesia, but persistent and repetitive physical activity can cause similar symptoms through the tearing of muscle tissues.
Diagnosing the Tingle
It's important to diagnose whether the tingling feeling in your forearms comes from worn muscles from push-ups, or a more serious neurological condition. Consult your doctor about prolonged or returning paresthesia, and be sure to disclose your exercise routine to help rule out push-ups as the cause if there is an underlying condition.
If you feel any other sensations like numbness, severe headache or chest pain, slurred speech, loss of vision or loss of hearing, consult your doctor immediately.