Paresthesia is a condition that is generally referred to as “pins and needles” or when your hand or foot falls asleep. It is very common, and typically caused by putting pressure on sensory nerves, which reduces blood supply to the local area and cuts off communication between the brain and nerves of the affected limb. The person will feel a sensation of numbness in the skin, followed by an uncomfortable tingling and prickling sensation. Once pressure on the limb is released, nerve communication to the brain restores, the tingling sensation gradually subsides, and normal feeling returns to the body.
“Needles and Pins” is a song written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono. In his autobiography, Bono states that he sang along with Nitzsche’s guitar-playing, thus creating both the tune and the lyrics, being guided by the chord progressions.
The song was originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon. Other hit versions of the song were recorded by The Searchers, Cher, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Stevie Nicks, Willie DeVille, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Smokie and by the Ramones.
Jackie DeShannon version (1963)
The song was first recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1963; in the US it peaked at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in May of that year. Though it was only a minor US hit, DeShannon’s recording of the song topped the charts in English Canada, hitting number one on the CHUM Chart in early 1963.
Chart (1963) Peak
Canadian CHUM Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 84
The Searchers version (1964)
The Searchers heard British performer Cliff Bennett perform “Needles and Pins” at a club in Hamburg, Germany, and instantly wanted it to be their next single. The Pye Records single was released in January 1964. It was number one in the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa and peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States. Soon after, in April 1964, “Needles and Pins” appeared on the Searchers’ next album, It’s the Searchers.
Audible during the Searchers’ recording of “Needles and Pins” is a faulty bass drum pedal, which squeaks throughout the song. It is particularly noticeable during the opening of the number.
Part of The Searchers’ version can be heard as the intro of the song “Use the Man” from American thrash metal band Megadeth.
Chart (1964) Peak position
Australia Kent Music Report 2
French Singles Chart 29
German Singles Chart 8
Irish Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 5
UK Singles Chart 1
US Billboard Hot 100 13
Norwegian Singles Chart 8
South African Singles Chart 1
Needles and Pins: the sensation
Usually, you feel this familiar sensation after you’ve been putting pressure on part of your body — sitting on a foot,sleeping on an arm, etc. When you apply this pressure for a prolonged period of time, you actually cut off communication from your brain to parts of your body. The pressure squeezes nerve pathways so that the nerves can’t transmit electrochemical impulses properly. Nerve impulses carry sensation information from nerve endings in the body to the brain, as well as instructions from the brain to the parts of the body. When you interfere with this transfer by squeezing the nerve pathways, you don’t have full feeling in that body part, and your brain has trouble telling the body part what to do.
This pressure can also squeeze arteries, stopping them from carrying nutrients to body cells. Without these nutrients, the nerve cells may behave abnormally, which can further interfere with communicating bodily sensations.
Due to both these factors, the information transmitted from the body part becomes somewhat jumbled, and the brain receives strange messages. Some nerve cells don’t transmit any information and others start sending impulses erratically. This causes you to feel a strange tingling sensation, which actually serves an important function. Your foot falling asleep for 10 minutes doesn’t pose any health threat, but if you were to cut off circulation for an extended period of time — several hours — you could suffer serious nerve damage. The initial tingling sensation tells you that you might want to readjust your position.
Once you do move your foot, stretch your legs, or roll over off your arm, the nerve impulses begin to flow properly again. You don’t regain feeling right away, however. There is a certain amount of re-adjustment time before the nerves transmit impulses correctly again. This increases the intensity of the tingling, causing the familiar “pins and needles” sensation.