Easily get pins and needles in legs / hands / arms when hungover?
April 3, 2016 10:00 AM   Subscribe

The day after drinking (whether that be 2-3 beers, to heavy binge drinking), I very easily get pins and needles in my hands and legs. That's not to say they just occur in my natural state -- it's more like when my arms or legs are in a compromised / bent position.

For example, I'm laying flat in bed on my back, typing this with my laptop on my stomach. My arms are bent at a roughly 45 degree angle so I can type. About 5-10 seconds into bending my arms, the pins and needles sensation comes on in my hands.

When I straighten out my arms, it immediately goes away. Rinse, repeat.

Two days after drinking, this 'more easily induced pins and needles' symptom disappears. I can be in the same position as I am now and my hands will feel fine.

I've scoured the internet and this can range from simple dehydration or a lack of vitamin B12, to alcoholic neuropathy. Yikes.

I don't drink alcohol very often, but when I do, it's with friends where we binge drink for a night or two -- we're talking about 10-ish drinks throughout the day / night, give or take. This happens about once every month to two months. I normally don't drink, otherwise. Won't even have a casual beer after work.

For what it's worth, I'm a pretty healthy 27-year-old male, 6'1" and 160 lbs (lean build with low body fat). I go to the gym 3-4 times a week for weight lifting and eat healthily. I recently got a health checkup and my cholesterol levels were good (good amount of good cholesterol and low amount of bad cholesterol). No signs of diabetes.

I didn't start noticing this until about 2-3 years ago. I don't recall this ever happening to me when I was in college, for example, when binge drinking was much more common.

It doesn't seem to affect any of my friends or other acquaintances I know. They have no idea when I tell them about this. Even my friends who drink much more and much more frequently don't experience this. They all look at me like I'm crazy. What could it be?

And please don't tell me about how bad binge drinking is. I know it is, which is why I've heavily cut back in recent years. It used to be a once every weekend type thing -- now I don't drink unless it's a large social event. The hangovers just aren't worth it to me anymore. But I'd still like to understand what's going on.
posted by 6spd to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
Was a liver function panel test performed as part of your recent check-up? Perhaps follow up with your health provider, and ask for that as well as requesting your b vitamin levels be checked (I think the one specific for b-12 deficiency is a methylmalonic acid test). Rule out the things that are worrying you most, first; if this effect is from dehydration, that can be addressed with drinking water during these binges (2 glasses of water for every alcoholic drink, or whatever formula eliminates your pins-and-needles aftermath). You should be eating regularly during these 10-12 hour binge episodes, too.

(Seriously though, you know this is a problem for you. Even though you've cut back, which is admirable. If this is a friend-specific activity, find other pastimes to share with these people, for shorter amounts of time, or consider seeing them less often. You're in your twenties and in good health; drinking like this will change the latter.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:23 AM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eh, if it goes away if you abstain from alcohol, then it's probably nothing to worry about. You most assuredly do not have alcoholic neuropathy or a vitamin deficiency - that only really sets in after years of daily drinking. Possibly what you're experiencing here is a combination of a mild electrolyte imbalance and/or dehydration, combined with the fact that alcohol is toxic as shit and kills nerve cells - specifically, dendrites, with acute exposure - so you'll experience some weirdness in that department for a day or two as your body repairs itself after drinking - which is what you're seeing here.
posted by un petit cadeau at 10:41 AM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I suggest to refill your magnesium-level after a night out this should help with the pins & needles and could be the reason.
posted by KMB at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2016

I don't have insight into a cause, but fwiw, this used to happen to me as well. (I've been sober for 5+ years at this point, so I can't say whether or not this would have resolved on its own eventually.)

This didn't happen every time I drank, or even every time I drank heavily (which I did with a fair amount of regularity). I'm generally inclined to just view it as a weird side effect from alcohol messing with your body's set point. I also suspect that some people may just be more prone to these sensations than others. For example, in the past, I've gotten pins and needles in my legs/face/chest/whatever just from changing my breathing patterns.

If this starts happening regularly when you're not drinking, then it might be worth seeing a doctor about this. Otherwise, I would just cut back on your alcohol intake, and make sure you stay well hydrated when you do drink.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2016

Oh, and in case it's relevant, I'm a petite female, and this happened to me starting when I was about 20. I was and still am pretty healthy, so no diagnoses that might have explained this.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:29 AM on April 3, 2016

I do this too, with just one drink and certain foods. It's a low level allergic reaction for me. I swell up all over just enough for parts of me to go numb. If it's a bad enough reaction, I'll be achy for a day or two. With a really bad reaction, a gentle caress becomes painful, as my skin will hurt.
posted by myselfasme at 12:56 PM on April 3, 2016

Talk to your doctor, not us.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:22 AM on April 4, 2016

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