Electric Shock Sensation in Head: Causes and Treatments

Occasionally, you may get an electric shock feeling in the head. This presents in a number of ways, including a tremor, vibration or a sharp sensation that comes out of the blue with no warning signs. The sensation is more noticeable when you are trying to sleep or when resting. In case you get this kind of sensation that sticks around too long, gets worse or interferes with your daily life, you should consult a doctor immediately.

Electric Shock Sensation in Head: Causes and Treatments

1.     Occipital Neuralgia

The electric shock feeling can be due to occipital neuralgia. It occurs as a result of injury or inflammation of the occipital nerves which connect the scalp to the top of spinal cord. 

The most outstanding symptom of occipital neuralgia is an intense, sharp and jabbing pain in the back of the head and neck, which is similar to an electric shock. It can also present with other symptoms including:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Pain in one or both sides of the head
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Burning, throbbing ache that starts at the base of the skull and radiates to the scalp
  • Neck pain when you make a movement

Treatment

You can alleviate the symptoms by:

  • Resting in a quiet room
  • Massaging the tight and painful muscles in the neck
  • Applying heat to the neck
  • Taking OTC anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen

If these options don’t help, your doctor can prescribe the following types of medicines:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antiseizure medications such as gabapentin and carbamazepine
  • Steroid shots and nerve blocks. Nerve blocks used in diagnosis can also provide short-term relief. The pain may come back in future and require further treatment.

Surgery is sometimes used to treat electric shock sensation, although rarely. The option of an operation is normally considered if the pain doesn’t improve with other treatments or it keeps returning. Surgery may involve the following:

  • Occipital nerve stimulation whereby the surgeon uses a device known as a neurostimulator to deliver electrical pulses to the occipital nerves. The stimulation can block pain impulses from reaching the brain.
  • Microvascular decompression which relieves pain by locating blood vessels that may be compressing the nerves.

2.     Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS) which includes the brain and the spinal cord. The disease causes deterioration of the CNS; if not treated, it can cause advancing disability.

MS usually presents with extreme fatigue. Other symptoms include:  

  • Deteriorating vision
  • Sensations of pins and needles
  • Electric shock sensation
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Development of speech disorders
  • Altered sense of taste or hearing
  • Hot or cold sensations
  • Elevated sensation
  • Generalized weakness, tremors or dragging leg
  • Loss of balance or falling

Treatment

No known cure exists for MS. Treatment is, however, offered to relieve symptoms of an attack and to slow down progress of the condition. People with mild MS will usually not require any treatment. The following treatments are used in the management of multiple sclerosis:

  • Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone (oral) and methylprednisolone (intravenous). These drugs help to reduce inflammation. They may have side effects, including higher blood pressure, fluid retention, insomnia and mood swings.
  • Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange). This involves separation of plasma (liquid part of blood) from the rest of the blood. The plasma is then replaced with a protein fluid known as albumin and returned into the body. This procedure is usually done in new cases which are severe and non-responsive to steroids.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is critical in helping people with MS to carry on with their lives. It mainly focuses on maintaining fitness as well as dealing with challenges involving mobility, thinking, perception, swallowing and speech. 

Programs include:

  • Physical Therapy: This helps to restore and maintain physical functions and mobility.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation: It prepares and equips patients with disabilities to learn new skills, make new career plans or get a new job.
  • Swallowing and Speech Therapy: It is conducted by speech therapists according to the needs of individual patients.
  • Cognitive Rehabilitation: It is designed to help patients deal with challenges of thought and perception.

3.     Brain Zap

Brain zap, also known as brain shiver, describes a sudden brain jolt similar to an electric shock sensation. The short-lived buzz is usually mild and occurs without a known cause. Severe jolts sometimes occur. Brain zaps are sometimes accompanied by mild pain and ache, tinnitus, dizziness and general discomfort.

Treatment

Because brain zaps have no specific cause, there is also a challenge in its treatment. Nevertheless, several treatment options exist that can help to manage them. These include:

  • Wait It Out: Because brain zaps happen as the brain adjusts to some internal change, giving it time to subside can work in many cases.
  • Change Medication: A patient’s reaction to the current medication could be causing the brain zap. In such a case, changing the medication is a resolution of the problem.
  • Restart Treatment: Brain zaps that result from discontinuation of medication such as antidepressants may be treated by restarting the medication. However, this should be done after consulting your doctor.
  • Take Supplements: Supplements are often recommended as a method to manage brain zaps. While this has no scientific basis yet, there is no harm to try. Recommended supplements include omega-3 fatty acids and B vitaminsSeveral other supplements such as L-tryptophan are reported to have varying types of results. These will not work the same way for everybody and experimenting with a few may be the only way to find out what works for you.
  • Taper Off: As discussed above, discontinuation of medication is one of the causes of brain zaps. It is reasonable to think that tapering off gently instead of discontinuing medication abruptly can reduce the risk of brain zaps. Tapering helps your brain to steadily adjust to the changing chemical state so that it gets well adjusted by the time you finally get off of the medication. You may need to discuss with your doctor to determine your appropriate tapering schedule.
 
 
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