Am I turning into Frankenstein's monster?
June 17, 2013 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Once in a while I get a weird electric jolt in the side of my neck, totally out of the blue. What's going on?

Occasionally but infrequently, say once every couple of months, I'll be minding my own business when out of the blue I get a sudden jolt in the left side of my neck, like a mild electric shock. It's not particularly painful, but it's definitely startling. This has been happening for a couple of years now, and I haven't been able to identify any trigger, except maybe that it seems to happen most often when I'm feeling a bit stressed or tense. I mentioned this to my chiropractor and he was as mystified as I am. What could be causing this sensation?
posted by zeri to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you take antidepressants?
posted by Wordwoman at 6:32 PM on June 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I get this every once in a while. It usually happens when I'm stressed and have been sitting weird or squirming (due to aforementioned stress). I've always just figured it was some kind of nerve twang, never really thought much about it.

Everyone in my family gets them from time to time, so my guess is that it's not that unusual a thing. If your chiropractor is "mystified" by it I would look into getting a new medical practitioner.

I would also under no circumstances employ the use of a chiropractor if I suspected I had pinched nerves in my neck, but I suppose to each his own.
posted by phunniemee at 6:37 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you carry a shoulder bag? Does it usually happen after you've been carrying it a lot? Maybe also while tense? (it can also appear on the opposite side due to overbalancing) Juggling other things (coffee, cell phone, etc) can add all sorts of 'random direction' movements that can pull muscles, particularly when walking around, using the stairs, etc...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:21 PM on June 17, 2013

As Wordwoman asks, if you're on antidepressants and you forgot to take them (assuming, here, SSRI/SNRI and other such serotonergic medications) you may have SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome.

I have never had it when taking my SNRI, but I have, after a series of MDMA usage, had a "bran zap" once. It was directly in the center of my brain. It's a weird feeling.

Other than that, I got nothing.
posted by symbioid at 9:56 PM on June 17, 2013

Consider this highly anecdotal, since I am not a doctor, but the "electric jolt" sensation you describe sounds to me like something I have experienced many times, and which has been explained to me by a physiotherapist as being caused by nerves not "sliding" properly within their protective sheathes during physical motion. I most commonly experience this, for instance, when reaching out to pick something up with my left hand - it feels like I've touched a low-voltage electric fence - as a result of poor-posture and muscle-tension in my traps (and, I fear, a slowly prolapsing disc, but I'm trying not to think about that right now). That muscle-tension thing, I'm figuring, could be why you mention a correlation to stress.

At the recommendation of my physio, two things have proved helpful in remedying this. First were a range of "exercises" (like, gentle stretching/flexing... nothing cardiovascular) designed to improve the... "slidiness" of the nerves within these sheathes. (Did I mention, IANAD...) Googling for "nerve sliders" should turn up some suggestions and videos for these, although the trick is to find the ones that target the nerve bundles which are affected. The other was going and getting fit, since my physio suggested one of the issues I had was that certain muscle-groups just weren't pulling their weight when it came to suspending my skeletal frame, compounding postural problems and leading to increasingly obstructed pathways.

Definitely recommend seeing a physio, though.
posted by kxr at 4:50 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To answer people's questions, I'm not on antidepressants, and I don't carry a shoulder bag. Just to be clear, the "jolts" aren't triggered by any specific movement -- they mostly happen when I'm just sitting. Still, I'll read up on "nerve sliding" (thanks, kxr!)
posted by zeri at 5:00 AM on June 18, 2013

Are you positive they aren't triggered by a movement? I get something that isn't exactly an 'electric jolt' but it's a really weird shooting "pain" sensation in my neck/base of my head if I move/jerk slightly in a weird way that I think might be involuntary. I'm still not entirely sure how I do this but it's a really weird feeling.
posted by fromageball at 5:38 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to get this when I turned my head suddenly.
posted by devnull at 5:53 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Nerve flossing" is another good search term for the sliding concept.
posted by ecsh at 6:27 AM on June 18, 2013

yep, I get those. I'd describe it as a pop. It's almost like I can hear it. It feels like there is a big rubber band in my neck and someone plucked it. Sometimes it hurts for a little while after.

(for the record, I've also had the brain zaps due to coming off of antidepressants and those are totally different.)
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:10 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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