Tingling in Head: Causes and Possible Treatments (Based on Science)

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Tingling in Head - Causes and Possible Treatments
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The feeling of tingling in head that people sometimes experience can be connected with a number of causes. The medical name for tingling in the body is paresthesia and this condition can cause a range of sensations from pins and needles to numbness. Paresthesia is usually felt in the legs or feet, but can also affect other body parts, such as your head. Head paresthesia doesn’t just cause tingling on the top of your head and scalp. You could also have scratchy, prickling, burning, or tickling feelings in your cheeks, forehead, and around your eyes.

Usually, most of the reasons for feeling that you have tingling in your head are connected with nerves or your central nervous system. For example, stress and anxiety can cause nerves to tighten causing temporary tingling in your head. Or, you might have numbness or a tingling sensation at the onset of a migraine, Lyme disease caused by tick bites, or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). However, other serious conditions like multiple sclerosis, a stroke, or diabetes can cause chronic tingling in the head.

According to WebMD paresthesia can be acute (temporary) or chronic. When it is chronic it doesn’t go away, or if it does, it comes back regularly, and it can be a sign of a medical condition or nerve damage.17

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Getting rid of the prickly, itchy sensation in your head requires addressing the underlying issues. Sometimes just resting is enough to soothe the pins and needles that tingle your head. For more serious health concerns, a doctor will help manage the chronic head tingling.

This article looks at the many causes of tingling in your head and looks at various ways to treat the condition naturally.

Causes and Treatments for Tingling in Head

Let’s look at some conditions that can cause temporary or persistent tingling feelings in your head.

Stress and anxiety

Tingling in the head can be a symptom of anxiety and stress. Stress can affect the body in different ways and it can cause muscles and nerves to tighten or become overly stimulated. Usually, these feelings of pins and needles in one or both sides of your head come and go. The tingling head sensation can precede or accompany periods of stress and anxiety.

The International Journal of Trichology reported that the scalp is a very sensitive area and is easily irritated. Researchers have found that stress is one of the reasons for feeling prickling, burning, or tingling sensations on the scalp. Along with a stinging feeling on the scalp, stress can cause itching and scalp dermatitis.1

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It’s important to manage stress properly to prevent it from causing a negative impact on your general health. Among the natural remedies for stress and anxiety to prevent tingling in head are B vitamins, especially B6, chamomile tea, and essential oils with stress-relieving properties. You can also find more natural ways to help manage stress in my article on the best natural ways to boost your mood.

Migraine

Migraine is a severe throbbing headache that can also cause tingling in the head either before the migraine starts or during the actual migraine. Migraines can only affect the back of your head or just one side of the head, either your left side or right side, and the pins and needles sensation may also only affect one side.

Dr. Jasvinder Chawla on Medscape says that one of the complications of migraine is paresthesia or numbness.2 According to the website BrainandSpine.co.uk, the migraine can cause a tingling sensation and even numbness in the face, lips, and tongue. In cases of severe migraines, this could result in speech problems and dizziness.3

Doctors aren’t sure why many people suffer from migraines, although some have pointed to a nutritional deficiency that is associated with some migraine attacks. If you have discomfort and painful migraine symptoms, please read my article on 10 natural ways to relieve migraines. You can also try some essential oils for migraine relief.

Sinus infection

A sinus infection can cause pressure in the head which can cause tingling and a crawling sensation. Infection in your sinuses causes inflammation in your forehead, nose, and between your eyes.

The book Diseases of the Sinuses points out that apart from fever, one of the most common complications of sinusitis is paresthesia of the trigeminal nerve in your head. This is the largest nerve in your head and is responsible for sensations in the face, scalp, and forehead.4

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To get quick relief from blocked sinuses and get rid of the tingling sensation in your forehead and top of your head, please read my article on the best home remedies for sinusitis. You could also try using some essential oils that help unblock sinuses to soothe the discomfort in your head.

Nerve or muscle damage

Any kind of damage to the muscles in your neck or nerves in your head can cause pins and needles in your head, on your cheeks, or on your scalp. Depending on the kind of damage, the tingling sensation caused by nerve damage could be temporary or chronic.

The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association reported on a case of a woman who suffered from tingling in the head and dizziness. Doctors found that the tingling sensation in her forehead, cheek, and chin caused by tightness and weakness of a neck muscle.5

Johns Hopkins Medicine also says that damage to the nerves in your head can cause paresthesia. This nerve damage can be caused by viral infections, high blood pressure or a stroke. The general symptoms of cranial neuropathies, where nerves in the brain are affected, are tingling sensation, pain, and numbness in the head area.6

Head trauma

Head trauma can also cause damage to nerves and muscles which result in loss of sensation and tingling in the head.

The book Nursing lists some of the symptoms of head trauma as paresthesia, headaches, blurred or double vision, nausea, and vomiting.7 If you have any of these symptoms after receiving a blow to the head, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Tick bite (Lyme disease)

Lyme disease from a tick bite can cause tingling in your head and headaches. An infected tick bite usually causes a red rash on the skin with a pale center. As the infection spreads in the body, it can affect the joints and cause fatigue.

The journal Infectious Disease Clinics of North America reported that symptoms of Lyme disease can show up long after the initial tick bite. Up to 12 months after being bitten by a tick, many people complain on recurrent episodes to head tingling, headaches, neck stiffness, and difficulty with memory and concentration.8

According to WebMD and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic treatment is required for Lyme disease, and patients treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of the disease usually recover quickly and completely.18, 19

Encephalitis

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain and can sometimes be caused by a tick bite. Viral infections are the most common cause of encephalitis, although bacterial infections and other inflammatory conditions may also cause this condition.20 The swelling in your brain can cause paresthesia along with vomiting, headaches, and fever.

Another serious condition that causes brain inflammation along with a tingling sensation is meningitis.9

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Both of these conditions require prompt medical attention to prevent the inflammation from causing permanent damage to the brain.

Shingles

Shingles are caused by the Herpes Zoster virus and if it affects your head, it can cause tingling on one side of your face or scalp. Shingles can cause the nerve endings under your skin to become very sensitive and painful. After the first shingles symptoms of tingling and numbness have passed, you will develop a rash that will blister, ooze fluid, then crust over.

Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on eMedicineHealth says that depending on the nerves involved, shingles can affect many parts of the body. The discomfort that shingles cause to the skin and scalp are described as pins and needles, shooting pains, overly sensitive skin, and tingling. Dr. Davis says that if these tingling symptoms are felt on the face, you should seek medical help immediately.10

You can treat shingles at home by using Manuka and clover honey. The honey helps to soothe sensitive skin, and the antibacterial properties of Manuka honey help wounds to heal quickly without scarring.

Stroke

Tingling in the head can be a sign and symptom of stroke. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off for some reason. This causes brain cells to die. A stroke can be a life-changing medical condition that has serious complications.

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that head tingling is one of the signs of a stroke.11 Many stroke victims also report of having tingling sensations in their head after they have recovered.

Head tingling and sensitivity is only one of the many signs of stroke. For example, strokes usually cause sudden weakness or numbness in the face, loss of speech, and vision problems. By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can greatly lower your risk of having a stroke.

Diabetic neuropathy

One of the complications of diabetes is damage to the peripheral and cranial nerves (nerves in the brain) that results in tingling, pain, and numbness.

The Postgraduate Medical Journal examined people who showed signs of nerve damage caused by diabetes. It was found that many diabetic patients had nerve pain that was worse at night. The pain was described as pins and needles, tingling, jabbing, and aching pains.12

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Managing your diabetes can help to reduce sensations of tingling in your head and other parts of your body. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may have to take insulin or other medication, however, in some cases, doctors recommend controlling diabetes by diet.

You can also take some steps to prevent type 2 diabetes and by being aware of the early signs of diabetes.

Multiple sclerosis

Chronic tingling in the head and other areas of the body is sometimes an early symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS) in some people. MS is a disease of the central nervous system, where eventually it can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.21 Of course, body and head tingling isn’t the only symptom of MS and there are many other early MS symptoms that differ from person to person. Some of the other symptoms include blurred or double vision, lack of coordination, loss of balance, numbness and weakness in an arm or leg.13

According to Dr. Christopher Luzzio on Medscape, bouts of tingling can affect different parts of the body at different times. Sometimes the tingling and itching can come on suddenly and disappear within a few minutes. Other times, the tingling in your head, arms, or another part of the body may last up to 24 hours.14

Although MS cannot be cured, treatments can manage symptoms and help recovering faster from attacks.

Brain tumor

On rare occasions, a tingling sensation in the head could be an indicator of a brain tumor.

According to the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, brain tumors that press on a nerve in the brain can produce paresthesia in various parts of the body, including the head.15

Thankfully, tingling in the head by itself isn’t a sign of a brain tumor. The website Cancer.net says that brain tumors cause severe symptoms, including headaches, seizures, loss of consciousness, vomiting, and changes in the ability to walk.16

When to See a Doctor

Tingling in your head could be a sign that you have an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. See your doctor if your symptoms persist or affect your quality of life.

Read my related articles:

Article Sources
  1. Int J Trichology. 2012 Apr-Jun; 4(2): 102–104.
  2. Medscape. Migraine headache clinical presentation.
  3. BrainAndSpine. Migraine.
  4. Diseases of the sinuses. Page 260.
  5. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2004 Sep; 48(3): 201–205.
  6. HopkinsMedicine. Cranial neuropathies.
  7. Nursing. Page 463.
  8. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2008 Jun; 22(2): 341–360.
  9. IntechOpen. Underlying causes of paresthesia.
  10. eMedicineHealth. Shingles.
  11. Stroke. 2002;33:2718-2721
  12. Postgrad Med J. 2006 Feb; 82(964): 95–100.
  13. WebMD. Multiple sclerosis.
  14. Medscape. Multiple sclerosis clinical presentation.
  15. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014; 10: 1175–1181.
  16. Cancer. Brain tumor.
  17. WebMD. What Is Paresthesia?
  18. WebMD. Lyme Disease.
  19. CDC. Lyme Disease.
  20. Mayo Clinic. Encephalitis.
  21. Mayo Clinic. Multiple sclerosis.
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