What is this tingling sensation?
June 15, 2005 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Every so often, I feel a tingling in my upper back and neck that sometimes spreads into the base of my skull and can go as far as my scalp.

It's definitely a pleasurable sensation; it feels a bit like cool water or a mild electric current being applied to my nerves. I feel it sometimes when I get up and walk around from having been seated for a while, and occasionally when I hear a piece of music that I really enjoy but haven't listened to in some time. The sensation lasts perhaps two or three seconds, starts strong and fades in intensity.

What is it? My best guess is that it's an endorphin rush of some kind, but I'm not sure why I would receive it at random.
posted by staresbynight to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it anything like the feeling one gets when placing a large ice cube between two saltine crackers and firmly biting down?
posted by null terminated at 9:09 AM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

Not to mock your health concerns but go watch Sixth Sense for a creepy explanation. Also, is this gender related?
posted by mecran01 at 9:12 AM on June 15, 2005

Just to rule this out: does it feel like the sound rain sticks make when you turn them over? I get that occasionally, in the same place you do, and whenever I've discussed it with people, they think I'm crazy. Turns out it only happens when I'm hungry, so I think it's actually a stomach/esophagus thing. I'm guessing this isn't what you're describing but thought I'd put it out there just in case!
posted by kimota at 9:15 AM on June 15, 2005

kimota: I get that too! I'm not alone!
posted by punkfloyd at 9:18 AM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: Null: never tried the ice cube thing. Hmm. May have to try it to see, though imagining what it would be like suggests that it's similar.
posted by staresbynight at 9:28 AM on June 15, 2005

kimota and punkfloyd: Me too, and only when I'm hungry. It feels different than what staresbynight is describing though.
posted by null terminated at 9:29 AM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: kimota: yes, it does feel like that. I've never noticed it when I was hungry, though.
posted by staresbynight at 9:29 AM on June 15, 2005

This same thing happens to me, albeit very very rarely.
posted by zerolives at 9:40 AM on June 15, 2005

I know the feeling to which you refer. I get it most often at night, a few minutes before I fall asleep, but if I've been staring at the same thing on the computer for too long and then straighten up. I don't know what it is. I wish I could make it happen on demand, though.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:41 AM on June 15, 2005

I get that feeling before a migraine.
posted by eggerspretty at 9:45 AM on June 15, 2005

I get the same feeling, and its great, but mine I think is more intense. I only get it 3 or 4 times a year, but when it comes around it is unmistakable. It happens when ive been sitting down and I stand up, about five seconds later I feel the exact same symptoms. Ive had to hold myself up before because sometimes I black out, but when I come down from the sensation I have this supreme feeling of contentment. Then I have to place myself back in to the situation I am in, I usually smile because it was awesome, and I go on doing what I was doing. Ive long attributed it to standing up to fast, but its definitely different from a headrush, a headrush is noticeably different. The main difference is that a headrush just really hurts.
posted by pwally at 10:02 AM on June 15, 2005

My three guesses:

1. A momentarily pinched nerve
2. A momentarily restrictive blood flow to those areas
3. Herpes (the cold sore, not the genital variety)
posted by randomstriker at 10:12 AM on June 15, 2005

Possibly some vertebral nerve pressure has just relaxed? Do you have a very straight spine? Probably after a long day your muscles release a little and your spine naturally realigns itself.

My spine is quite curved, helical really, so I don't get any natural releases like that without lots of massage and physical therapy.
posted by Araucaria at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2005

Unremittant joy? I feel that sometimes too. Usually associated with music. Also sometimes with genital stimulation. Maybe your body just decided that you needed a pick-me-up?
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 AM on June 15, 2005

I've had a similar thing that I noticed in elementary school. Whenever we'd have class reading time, where everybody wa s dead quiet and concentrating, I would get a little shiver. I still get it sometimes in situations like that, where I'm around people but everyone's being very quiet. I have no idea what part of my reptilian brain triggers that.
posted by patgas at 10:18 AM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing endorphin rush triggered by emotional or physical stimulation. I get it too and, on occasion, can induce it. It doesn't happen when I'm hungry.
posted by deborah at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2005

uh, isn't that the sensation that's traditionally referenced by such phrases as "that piece of music sends shivers down my spine" or "gives me chills"?
posted by mdn at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2005

I get it with that feeling of complete contentment, like when getting a backrub.

Sometimes ephedrine will do it too.
posted by sourwookie at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2005

Response by poster: Araucaria: that might be it; I don't know about the relative straightness of my spine, but I do carry a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders, so a tension release of some kind could be the cause.
posted by staresbynight at 11:26 AM on June 15, 2005

I always get this feeling right before I puke.
posted by crapulent at 11:36 AM on June 15, 2005

There is actually a spot on my upper spine that triggers this sensation. I also get it when enjoying something beautiful. Heck, I got it when I read your description of it, though mildly.

I have no idea what it is, but I'm not giving it up!
posted by frykitty at 12:26 PM on June 15, 2005

Hmm. Looking around, I find it's a similar sensation to this. Sadly, even Cecil doesn't know what it is.
posted by frykitty at 12:44 PM on June 15, 2005

Sounds like mild radiculopathy to me. It is pretty common, and usually not much to worry about.
posted by vronsky at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2005

Sounds like mild radiculopathy to me.



In my case, that doesn't sound much like the thing at all. No pain or numbness involved, ever.
posted by frykitty at 1:58 PM on June 15, 2005

I get that exact feeling when I'm physically active, and happen to twist my neck quickly.
posted by stray at 2:07 PM on June 15, 2005

Best answer: Yeah I googled to make sure of the spelling and read a few of those too. They seemed like extreme cases. I get a tingling sensation in my upper thigh sometimes and that is what my doc said it was. Could be caused by a tiny bone spur pressing on some nerves in the spine, it is no big deal. You mentioned you get it after getting up sometimes so I thought maybe you were compressing something in your back and upon rising the nerve became un-pinched ( I recently read about the sinks they use in hair salons causing a dangerous form of this condition). You mentioned cold water and electric sensations and that is EXACTLY what I feel. No pain involved. Anyway - that was the thought process behind my answer.

from a medical dictionary -

Examples include: numbness, tingling, hyperesthesia (increased sensitivity), paralysis, localised weakness, dysarthria (difficult speech), aphasia (inability to speak), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), diplopia (double vision), amaurosis fugax (temporary loss of vision in one eye) difficulty walking, incoordination, tremor, seizures, confusion, lethargy, dementia, delirium and coma.
posted by vronsky at 3:55 PM on June 15, 2005

Been bit by any radioactive spiders lately? Sounds like you've got the spidey-sense... (G)
posted by Ken McE at 6:04 PM on June 15, 2005

The sensation triggered by standing up too fast is probably mild cerebral hypoxia (lack of blood to the brain). But for the music aspect of it, I think that mdn's got it, though I'm not sure exactly how it works.

Are you sure the feeling when standing or hearing certain music is the same thing? For me, the dizziness of standing up too fast is different than shivers going up/down my spine, though vaguely related.

It might also be caused by infrasound.
posted by monsterhero at 6:26 PM on June 15, 2005

That feeling? Yes. I can do that at will, more or less, by thinking villainous thoughts. No joke. I shall destroy the world! * tingle *
posted by furiousthought at 6:27 PM on June 15, 2005

I love that feeling, and I tend to get it from odd things.

Non sexual contact from someone can do it, and I mean just sitting next to a friend or even someone I don't know (male or female) and having being in contact, even just touching legs when seated. It's a purely non sexual sensation, just a pleasant tingle.

Beautiful music can do it, or something emotional, or something a bit spooky, sometimes even a good point in a conversation.

I think it's my hair trying to stand up, because when it really hits me (say, during a piece of beautiful music) it spreads to my arms and shows up as goosebumps. Why my hair chooses this response, I don't know, but it's always pleasant.

I've felt a creepy version of this when I was once lying in bed, in an empty house. I was awake - but why? Had I heard something? I lay awake, listening for something.

The bedroom door opened with a soft noise, and swung open about half way. I turned the light on and stared, wide eyed into the darkened hallway beyond, aware that anyone peering in would see me, yet be invisible to my own eyes.

I remained frozen, staring into the darkness, eyes straining to see what was there.

My whole body prickled with goose bumps, and tingled. So, Probably an adrenaline rush combined with my hair trying to stand on end.

Oh yes, it was just the wind...

... or was it?
posted by tomble at 7:50 PM on June 15, 2005

Best answer: I was six dollars curious enough about the sensation of "the chills" to which I think you are referring (though, that it happens when you stand up too fast as well seems odd, but I suppose our brains could be wired differently) that I asked about it on Google Answers.

Basically, it's a result of the fight-or-flight response; it's us trying to raise our hackles, the way cats and dogs do when they feel threatened. It serves to make them look more intimidating. We evolved most of our hair off, but retained this now-vestigial response.

There are more details in the full answer. I hope it helps.
posted by monsterhero at 12:09 AM on June 16, 2005

Something like this has been happening to me for the last 6 or 7 years. Usually, when I'm laying down, waking up after a night of sleep while still in bed, or within the first hour after awaking. It never happens during the day or evening. It feels like pressure is being released and I hear what sounds like a door creeeeeking. I used to think I might be crazy, and then one morning my then-girlfriend hear it too. It isn't a bad feeling or a good feeling for me, but I do find it really annoying since it is something that I cannot control. Once it starts, it just happens and I'm along for the ride for two seconds or so until it stops. My current girlfriend heard it one morning too while in bed with me, and has subsequently started getting them too. Until reading this thread, I was worried I infected her with something....
posted by pwb503 at 6:16 PM on June 17, 2005

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