That scary tingly feeling
March 15, 2005 1:08 PM   Subscribe

So today, I was driving down the road in pretty thick traffic and had to hit my brakes really hard to avoid a crash. As always, with every adrenaline related incident, I got this very sudden tingly feeling all over, most notably in my neck. What is the physical cause of this? Muscles tightening, increased blood flow or something completely different?
posted by chiababe to Science & Nature (11 answers total)
My guess would be an endorphin rush, presumably to send natural painkillers to parts of your body as a response to imagined potential injury.
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:15 PM on March 15, 2005

I've always found that tingly feeling incredibly pleasurable -- first noticed it when I twisted my ankle very badly in high school, and as I sat to check on it I almost fell over from the wave of niceness that I felt. I attributed it to adrenaline itself, but I suppose that's a pretty ignorant conclusion to draw; endorphins sound perfectly reasonable. Somehow this didn't turn me into either an adrenaline thrill-seeker or a habitual ankle-twister.

But in any case I suppose driving in heavy traffic is no place to take a moment to tilt your head back and give in to whatever sensations are going through your body...
posted by xueexueg at 1:30 PM on March 15, 2005

I think that's literally what's referred to as "raising the hairs on the back of your neck"--or, at least, it definitely is if it's the same feeling I recognize. If you ever feel it again, look at your forearms or feel the back of your neck...there will almost certainly be goosebumps.

From what I recall, the muscles at the base of each hair follicle are activated by adrenaline, to raise the hairs up off your skin. Some vestigial combination of "raising hackles", like when a dog or cat looks bigger with their back hair on end, and some kind of insulating effect, I think.
posted by LairBob at 1:33 PM on March 15, 2005

Any numbness in your lips? Because that is caused by your potassium level dropping when you have panic attack. So a nurse told me while visiting a friend in the hospital.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:07 PM on March 15, 2005

Isn't this a result of hyperventilation? The adrenaline causes you to breathe faster, causing the balance of oxygen to other gases in your blood to change, which in turn makes your extremities (fingers, lips etc) tingle.

Or maybe that's a different set-up.
posted by skylar at 2:11 PM on March 15, 2005

Response by poster: There was no lip numbing and no hyperventilation. The feeling was gone as quick as it came. It was just one of those "oh shit!" moments, which as odinstream mentioned, I also get when I see a cop and I'm going 55 in a 35.
posted by chiababe at 7:39 PM on March 15, 2005

I think it's the classic "fight or flight" syndrome. I get it when I pass a cop going too fast. It's incredibly stimulating, and I usually feel a high for a few minutes after the cop doesn't pull out. I've had an artificial adrenaline shot before. Does anything else simulate that feeling?
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:03 PM on March 15, 2005

Does anything else simulate that feeling?

I have narcolepsy and often fall asleep in class. I ask my teachers to say my name or ask me a question if they see me sleeping because it "puts me on the spot" and I get that tingly feeling and that feeling is usually enough to keep me awake for the rest of class.
posted by jessicool at 11:15 PM on March 15, 2005

I 2nd Frank Grimes. Adrenaline has widespread effects throughout the body instantaneously.
posted by peacay at 12:28 AM on March 16, 2005

But as a 2nd thought - I think it's probably a biochemical/neurological rather than physical answer that would explain the tingling.
I forget offhand but presume that adrenaline 'primes' neurotransmission - allowing for the 'flight' to happen more easily with the rapid release and reuptake of nerve transmitter substances (nerve impulse rate increases).

I guess the neck has more nerve endings or is closer to the brain/spinal cord and the 'priming' generates 'aberrant' discharging, accounting for the tingles - could be hair erector muscles tighten and local blood vessel dilation and increased nerve ending sensitivity - I would suspect that these things combined actually constitute the tingling feeling.
posted by peacay at 12:39 AM on March 16, 2005

It's just vasodilation to muscle and skin. It's caused by the beta-2 agonist effects of epinephrine.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:53 PM on March 16, 2005

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