According to this excellent answer, the difference between "pain" and "pins and needles" (neuropathy) is that different receptors (sensory nerves) trigger in reaction to different stimuli.

Different types of pain receptors (hot/cold, pressure, etc.) send pain signals to the brain.

Different receptors are responsible for sending neuropathy signals to the brain. These receptors are usually triggered when the nerve receives a shortage of blood flow.

According to the Wikipedia Article on Sensory Receptors, there don't appear to be any nerves that produce pins-and-needles sensations to the brain...

So I ask: What are the specific types of nerves/receptors that send "pins and needles" signals to the brain? What are they called?

I would imagine that it either has to be a specific, specialized receptor that (perhaps) starts firing if its senses "something is wrong" (such as decreased bloodflow to the area, etc.), or it's that all sensory receptors are capable of firing "pins and needles" signals under special circumstances.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Pain is an active neural response (nociceptive pathways). Neuropathy is a neural dysfunction. Where is the confusion? $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Dec 16 '14 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @WYSIWYG (I'd upvote you if I had the rep to do so) - You are correct: neuropathhy is neural dysfunction, however, you cannot deny that pins-and-needles does in fact register with the brain as a sensation, otherwise we would never know about it (that our nerves weren't functioning correctly)! So clearly, neuropathy communicates to the brain via signals. Clearly, so does pain. Pain feels different than pins-and-needles. I want to know why. $\endgroup$ – smeeb Dec 16 '14 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Are you specifically asking about neuralgia and general pain. Pins and needles dont feel painful. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Dec 16 '14 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @WYSIWYG - I feel like perhaps you're either not reading my question carefully, or you're reading too much into it. I am asking: why do pins-and-needles feel different than pain? And I'm looking for a biological/physiological explanation, not something high-level and lofty that a monkey would understand. $\endgroup$ – smeeb Dec 16 '14 at 17:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In that 2nd post, the accepted answer states that pain receptors send one kind of signal to the brain, which interprets those signals as pain, whereas other sensors send different signals to the brain, which the brain interprets as pins-and-needles. So to me this implies that the difference is the kind of sensory nerves that are firing. I'm asking: what are the sensory nerves that send pain, and what are the sensory nerves that send "pins and needles" signals? $\endgroup$ – smeeb Dec 16 '14 at 17:45

Pins-and-needles (PAN) sensation and pain stem from the same nerves. The pathophysiologic process is different, though. PAN is characteristic of nerve lesion, and is therefore a pathologic reaction. Pain is a physiologic reaction to a stimulus perceived as ominous. Pathophysiologically speaking, the PAN sensation is a distortion in somatosensory stimulus processing due to injury to peripheral nerves. Of course, the PAN sensation will stem from somatosensory nerves. Pure motor nerves will not cause such a sensation.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.