What causes head numbness?
Numbness, sometimes referred to as paresthesia, is common in arms, legs, hands, and feet. It’s less common in your head. Most of the time, head paresthesia isn’t cause for alarm.
Read on to find out more about the most common causes of head numbness.
Numbness is often associated with other sensations, such as:
- pins and needles
People who have head numbness may also have difficulty feeling touch or temperature on their scalp or face.
Because so many conditions can cause head numbness, many other symptoms can occur at the same time. For instance, numbness in the head caused by the common cold may be accompanied by nasal congestion, sore throat, or a cough.
Seek medical help if you experience head numbness along with:
- a head injury
- numbness in other parts of your body
- numbness in an entire arm or leg
- weakness in your face or other parts of your body
- confusion or difficulty speaking
- difficulty breathing
- vision problems
- a sudden, unusually painful headache
- loss of bladder or bowel control
Numbness on one side of your face can also be a sign of a stroke. Learn how to identify the symptoms of a stroke in order to act quickly.
Numbness has a lot of potential causes, including illnesses, medication, and injuries. Most of these conditions affect the nerves responsible for sensation in your scalp and head.
There are several major nerve clusters connecting your brain with different parts of your face and head. When nerves are inflamed, compressed, or damaged, numbness can occur. Reduced or blocked blood supply can also cause numbness. Some causes of head numbness include:
Diabetes can cause permanent nerve damage, called diabetic neuropathy. Numbness is also a common symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic condition affecting the central nervous system.
- chemotherapy drugs
- illicit drugs and alcohol
- cluster headaches
- eyestrain headaches
- tension headaches
- Lyme disease
- tooth infections
Injuries directly to your head or brain such as concussions and head trauma can cause numbness if they damage nerves.
- brain tumors
- high blood pressure
- poor posture
Waking up with numbness in your head can be a sign that you’re sleeping in a position that restricts blood flow to a nerve. Try sleeping on your back or on your side with your head, neck, and spine in a neutral position. If on your side, a pillow between your knees can help the alignment of your back.
Choose the right pillow based on whether you’re a side, back, or stomach sleeper.
Numbness can occur unilaterally on one side of your head. Sometimes, the entire right or left side of your head is affected. In other cases, it’s just one part of the right or left side of the head, such as the temple or the back of your head.
Some of the most common conditions that can affect one side of your head include:
- Bell’s palsy
Find out what may be causing numbness on the left side of your face.
People with anxiety sometimes report numbness or tingling in their head. For some, a panic attack might trigger numbness and tingling in the scalp, face, and other areas of the body.
While little is known about the link between anxiety and head numbness, it likely has to do with the body’s fight-or-flight response. Blood flow is directed towards areas that can help you fight a threat or escape it. Without adequate blood flow, other parts of your body may be left feeling temporarily numb or tingly.
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms and medical history. For instance, they might ask when the numbness began and whether other symptoms appeared around the same time.
Your doctor may also prescribe one or more of the following tests to help identify the cause of your head numbness:
- blood tests
- neurological exams
- nerve conduction studies and electromyography
- CT scan
- nerve biopsy
Since many conditions cause head numbness, it may take some time to identify what’s causing your symptoms.
Once you get a diagnosis, treatments usually address the underlying condition. For instance, if your head numbness is caused by diabetes, treatment will focus on stabilizing blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and insulin treatments.
Over-the-counter medication may be used to treat colds and mild to moderate headaches.
If posture is causing head numbness, try changing your position, using ergonomic aids, or moving more often. Certain exercises, including deep breathing, may also help with posture.
Alternative treatments such as acupuncture and massage may improve blood circulation and relieve head numbness.
You should contact your doctor if your head numbness appears after you start taking medication.
Head numbness has many possible causes, including illness, medication, and injuries. Causes of head numbness like common cold, headaches, or sleeping positions aren’t cause for alarm.
Numbness in your head usually goes away with treatment. You should talk with a doctor if you have concerns and if your head numbness is interfering with your day-to-day activities.