A seizure is an abnormal, temporary change in the brain’s electrical activity. It occurs when something disrupts the connections between nerve cells in the brain.
Some seizures are related to medical conditions, such as alcohol withdrawal or high fever. Other seizures are unprovoked and don’t have a specific cause. If you have recurrent, unprovoked seizures, it’s called epilepsy.
There are also many types of seizures. Some seizures cause involuntary shaking and loss of consciousness, while others may cause blank staring or confusion.
Depending on the kind of seizure, you may have certain sensations before, during, and after. This might include pain, like muscle soreness or headache. The severity of pain is different for each person and each seizure.
Here, we’ll explore what causes seizure-related pain, along with any other possible sensations.
In general, the actual experience of having a seizure does not hurt. Pain during seizures is
Some types of seizures make you lose consciousness. In this case, you won’t feel pain during the seizure.
If you do feel pain, it’s usually caused by the side effects of a seizure. This means you’ll feel the pain when the seizure ends and as you regain consciousness.
Causes of seizure-related pain include:
Falls or injuries
Some, like generalized tonic-clonic (GTC) seizures (previously called grand mal seizures), can cause involuntary physical movements, such as:
- jerking or spasms
- biting your tongue
This can lead to falls and painful injuries, including:
- broken bones
- head injury
Since falls and injuries can be dangerous, it’s important to practice seizure precautions as much as possible.
Some seizures might cause muscle contractions, which make your muscles sore. It can be painful to move your muscles for several hours. The soreness can also range from mild to severe.
Epileptic seizures can also cause headaches. This may include a:
- Pre-ictal headache. A pre-ictal headache happens just before a seizure. It may be a warning that a seizure is about to occur.
- Ictal headache. This type of headache occurs during a partial seizure. Ictal headaches are rare.
- Postictal headache. A postictal headache develops within 3 hours after a seizure. The pain, which may be constant or throbbing, can last for 6 to 24 hours or longer.
Rarely, a seizure can cause stomach pain. This is known as ictal abdominal pain.
According to the researchers, ictal abdominal pain is uncommon.
The feeling of having a seizure depends on whether you lose awareness. It’s also different for each person.
A focal onset seizure involves one part of the brain. If you lose consciousness during the seizure, it’s called a “focal onset impaired awareness seizure.” If you’re conscious during the seizure, it’s known as a “focal onset aware seizure.”
A focal onset aware seizure can make you feel:
- sudden intense emotions (like joy or fear)
- déjà vu
- an out-of-body sensation
- hot or cold sensations
- a rising sensation in your stomach
- tingling, stiffness, or numbness
- a sensation of a “wave” traveling through your head
- a sensation that your leg or arm is smaller or bigger than it is
For some people, a focal aware seizure may be an aura, which is warning of a stronger oncoming seizure.
Generalized onset seizures
A generalized onset seizure involves both sides of the brain. Types include:
- tonic-clonic seizures
- absence seizures (also called petit mal seizures)
- tonic seizures
- clonic seizures
- atonic seizures
- myoclonic seizures
You might feel an aura before a generalized onset seizure. But during the actual seizure, you typically lose consciousness.
There have been some reports of people staying conscious during generalized onset seizures. For example, in a 1997 case report, two people were aware during seizures. Both reported feeling pain during seizures.
Though most generalized onset seizures cause unconsciousness, a myoclonic seizure does not. This type of seizure causes twitching and jerking, which can feel like an electric shock.
In addition to pain or headaches, you may feel other symptoms after a seizure ends.
Side effects of a seizure include:
Generally, the experience of having a seizure does not hurt. That’s because some seizures cause unconsciousness, so you’re unaware of what is happening. However, you might have a headache before or after a seizure. Additionally, as you regain consciousness, you may experience muscle soreness or pain if you got injured during the seizure.
If you have epilepsy or another condition that causes seizures, work with your healthcare team to develop a safety plan. They can prescribe medication to help control seizures. Your healthcare provider can also provide tips to reduce your risk of getting hurt during a seizure.