"Electric Shock" type pain in my scalp!

Posted by Deby @deby, Aug 17, 2011

It feels like someone is touching my scalp with an electric wire or prod. Like a “zap” and then it takes a few seconds to get over it. It happens 2 or more times per MINUTE! It lastes for a couple of days usually and when it goes away it takes a few more days for my scalp not to be sore. I don’t know how many times a year it occurs but when it does, like today, it drives me crazy. I walk around making weird faces and people stare at me. They think I have a headache or migrain but I don’t, the pain is only on my scalp not IN my head. Sometimes the shocks occur over and over for a minute, then go back to 2 or more times per minute. It’s the weirdest thing and I can’t wait for it to be over. I never know when it’s going to occur or what brings it on. Anyone ever heard of something like this?

I have suffered from exactly the same thing for about 50 some years. Having a fever will always trigger an attack but most come for no reason and I am miserable for a couple of days. I can’t even comb my head on the side the attack is on. I have never seen a doctor for it and really have never found anything that makes it better, just have to wait until the attack is over. I just can’ afford to see doctors and have a bunch of tests and still no real answer. The good news is it hasn’t killed me. I often said though if the pain was constant it would or I would at least wish I was dead.

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Hello @megamom

I’m really sorry to hear that you have been having this type of pain for such a long time.

Have you ever kept a journal to record the attacks and look at any activities and/or food that might be a trigger? Also, have you ever had shingles? Also, do you have any other symptoms such as balance or gait issues?

Teresa

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I had this same problem for over 5 years so far , Same pain character of what most of you described , comes in episodes and lasting for seconds , Am a fresh graduated doctor at the time am posting this , I did some of researches/consulting but didn’t reach a clear cause , although through my research I was able to reach some points
1- there’s a high chance its “Scalp folliculitis” and its actually has almost the very similar character of stapping/shock pain , and I noticed mine usually exaggerating with “Scalp Dandruff” , so you might consider checking a dermatologist
2- It’s not likely to be a series problem , and panicking may increase the symptoms , you need to get rid of Hair Dandruff or any other scalp/hair related conditions , and by doing a self morning massage it will hopefully work fine to reduce the attacks intensity, at least for me =)

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I just stumbled on this discussion while researching Maxalt which my friend says is a “miracle drug” for migraines. Does anyone know whether Maxalt is effective with the electrical shock headache attacks discussed here?

I can’t remember when I started getting these headaches, but I’ve suffered for probably 25 or so years with them. My mom has had them since her 20’s as well and I always assumed it was a “gift” genetically passed on to me. I don’t recall if her mother got them too, but I think it is just the two of us in my family. Years ago w started referring to them as zapzaps.

Until finding this discussion, I could never describe these attacks to anyone else in a way they could understand, as one kind of has to be an unfortunate member of this terrible club to get it — and I get it it. OMG, do I feel your pain!

Several times a year I get intense electrical stabbing shock headache attacks that start with a not-so-pleasent tingling sensation, which turns into a pain deep in my ear canal, then takes its final form of the repeated stabbing shocks that move around my scalp as the days go on. If I’m particularly unlucky, the attack might settle in or around my eye socket, or remain in the ear canal. These attacks are so debilitating that I cannot go to work and am in bed for the duration, which typically lasts 2 to 5 days. The nerves around the attack location whether facial or on the scalp are extremely sensitive and the very hair folicles are screaming in pain if I touch or brush my hair.

If I catch it in the early tingling stage I can manage the pain by taking 3 regular strength Tylenol tablets every four hours on the dot for at least 3 days. If I miss a dose I run the risk of a full-blown attack, or if I miss that early window of time to medicate, there is NOTHING that will stop a full-blown attack. I know of no triggering medication or event. They strike randomly and the periods of time between attacks varies. Sometimes I’ll get two in one month, then nothing for 6 months, or I’ve gone for a year between attacks. No rhyme or reason or pattern.

Well, thanks for listening. It felt strangely satisfying to vent to an audience who obviously understands. If anyone has any info on the effectiveness of Maxalt on these types of headaches, please post!

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Hello @jmksd2018 and welcome to Mayo Connect. I am sorry to hear about all the uncomfortable head pain you have experienced.

Have you had an evaluation of these symptoms by a doctor? If not, that would be a good first step. You do not mention other health problems or medications that you take, however and evaluation by a doctor might rule out anything that might be triggering these painful attacks.

Perhaps some other members of this group will be able to discuss treatments that have helped them with their “shock-like” head pain.

While I do not know anything about the medication you mentioned, Maxalt, here is link from drugs.com, ciscussing it, https://www.drugs.com/maxalt.html

We look forward to getting to know you, please post as you are able.

Teresa

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It might just be coincidence or maybe the pains have just died down for a while…however, I thought I noticed a correlation between my use of fluticasone for allergies and the pains. I have stopped the fluticasone and the pains have stopped as well. If they return…then it wasn’t the fluticasone.

Liked by Parus

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I too, have had these stabbing pains in my head for quite a few years, maybe 30, I’m 75. I can’t think of ANY correlation for them, although I did find that I am allergic to dairy products….a full glass of milk will give me a migraine within 20 min, a pity because I loved a cold glass of milk (I haven’t had a migraine since I stopped drinking milk 10 years ago).
The stabbing pains almost bring me to my knees at times. They happen only 2-3 times a year, on the top right side of my scalp, and once in a while behind my right ear.
I use fluticasone, but it doesn’t appear to have any effect on the pain.

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I have that now…started with one sided sore throat! Very painful

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@normasmith381

I have this sensation. It just started recently. Its scary. I dont have a headache or anything…its just these electrical bursts on my scalp and then its just sore to the touch. They only last 5 seconds. What is this?? Somone please tell me. Its so strange and I never know when it is coming on!!

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Some say it is type of herpes virus….llycene, l lysicene?? Help?

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Yes,me. I have had this for over 15 years. Currently am suffering now, and probably will be for another week or so. Almost a year to the day, it starts. I had a full neuro work up, about 6 years ago, all negative. It always starts in the cartilage of my ear then moves to my scalp, working it’s way up to the top.Last Year I went to Urgent care as I was on vacation, and the NP knew exactly what to prescribe…carbamazepine. It worked, but made my eyes work independently of each other for about four hours. I called the pharmacy and they told me that I should stop taking them immediately. I did, but with one pill, pain all gone….but I would never take them again, ever.

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@nurse49

Yes,me. I have had this for over 15 years. Currently am suffering now, and probably will be for another week or so. Almost a year to the day, it starts. I had a full neuro work up, about 6 years ago, all negative. It always starts in the cartilage of my ear then moves to my scalp, working it’s way up to the top.Last Year I went to Urgent care as I was on vacation, and the NP knew exactly what to prescribe…carbamazepine. It worked, but made my eyes work independently of each other for about four hours. I called the pharmacy and they told me that I should stop taking them immediately. I did, but with one pill, pain all gone….but I would never take them again, ever.

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This is exactly me! Started in 1989. For years nobody knew what it was or what to do. Finally, a couple of years ago I had nerve blocks done at Mayo in Rochester! Hallelujah, I had an answer and a solution! I have occipital neuralgia and get 2 shots in the occipital nerves on both sides of my neck. I also get a shot in my arricular (not sure I spelled this right) nerve on the left side of my neck which takes care of that sharp pain going through the cartilage of my ear to top of my head. I get these 3 shots to block these nerves done every 3 months. They have to be given by an anesthesiologist. I am pain free up until about two weeks before my next set of shots at the three month time period.
I tried having Botox shots done at first but that just did not work for me.
I am so excited about the relief I have that I encourage everybody I encounter with this same thing to further explore this option for themselves to see if it might also help them. I hope you can find a neurologist that will work with Pain doctors so you might also get relief. Best wishes.

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You perfectly described the pain that I experience in my scalp … electric bolt, jarring, like an electric prod. With no forewarning this pain zaps my scalp. It lasts about 1 to 2 seconds. I involuntarily yelp, grimace and jump … it takes my breath away. Thank goodness the bolts of electricty don't last any longer than a second because I could not bear it. After the "zap" is gone it takes a moment to compose myself and then it happens again. Sometimes 3 times a minute. I will go months without having to deal with this pain …. however it always returns with the same frequency & strength. I wonder if a virus has set up "residency" in a nerve root in my scalp. i.e. epstein barr from mono or herpes from shingles (however the shingles virus attacked my nerve coming from the lumbar region and left me with post-hepatic neuralgia running down my leg). This scalp pain is not from the trigeminal nerve in that my face is not affected …rather the pain is felt in the crown of my scalp & runs down the back of my head. I wonder if prednisone would provide any relief. It's hard to sleep when this pain keeps me wide awake. Please… any suggestions? As soon as I finish this paragraph, I will try ice ?? Maybe some relief?

Liked by stfnwtl89

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@rebe

You perfectly described the pain that I experience in my scalp … electric bolt, jarring, like an electric prod. With no forewarning this pain zaps my scalp. It lasts about 1 to 2 seconds. I involuntarily yelp, grimace and jump … it takes my breath away. Thank goodness the bolts of electricty don't last any longer than a second because I could not bear it. After the "zap" is gone it takes a moment to compose myself and then it happens again. Sometimes 3 times a minute. I will go months without having to deal with this pain …. however it always returns with the same frequency & strength. I wonder if a virus has set up "residency" in a nerve root in my scalp. i.e. epstein barr from mono or herpes from shingles (however the shingles virus attacked my nerve coming from the lumbar region and left me with post-hepatic neuralgia running down my leg). This scalp pain is not from the trigeminal nerve in that my face is not affected …rather the pain is felt in the crown of my scalp & runs down the back of my head. I wonder if prednisone would provide any relief. It's hard to sleep when this pain keeps me wide awake. Please… any suggestions? As soon as I finish this paragraph, I will try ice ?? Maybe some relief?

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Okay … after writing the above post I tried something that had never crossed my mind in the 20 or so years that I have suffered with this condition (episodic painful zaps to my scalp). First, I placed an iced clay pack on my head and then took one 20mg prednisone tablet. I rarely take medicine so I didnt come by the decision to take a steroid easily. However I know when I had the shingles it was recommended that I take a methylprednisone pack to help heal the infected nerve. Also when I had a cervical slipped disk, the only relief came with a methylprednisone pack which reduced the nerve inflammation. So if this pain in my scalp is nerve related, it stands to reason a prednisone tablet might heal/soothe the inflamed nerve. I will post tomorrow how I did throughout the night. Fingers crossed….

Liked by stfnwtl89

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@rebe

You perfectly described the pain that I experience in my scalp … electric bolt, jarring, like an electric prod. With no forewarning this pain zaps my scalp. It lasts about 1 to 2 seconds. I involuntarily yelp, grimace and jump … it takes my breath away. Thank goodness the bolts of electricty don't last any longer than a second because I could not bear it. After the "zap" is gone it takes a moment to compose myself and then it happens again. Sometimes 3 times a minute. I will go months without having to deal with this pain …. however it always returns with the same frequency & strength. I wonder if a virus has set up "residency" in a nerve root in my scalp. i.e. epstein barr from mono or herpes from shingles (however the shingles virus attacked my nerve coming from the lumbar region and left me with post-hepatic neuralgia running down my leg). This scalp pain is not from the trigeminal nerve in that my face is not affected …rather the pain is felt in the crown of my scalp & runs down the back of my head. I wonder if prednisone would provide any relief. It's hard to sleep when this pain keeps me wide awake. Please… any suggestions? As soon as I finish this paragraph, I will try ice ?? Maybe some relief?

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Pain-free and episode-free for the past 7 hours … which is remarkable because this latest episode was hitting me several times a minute. So maybe the iced clay pack and the prednisone is my answer or it could be coincidence …. I will have to try this solution several more times before I can declare it a real solution. Thank you for all the information gleaned from this discussion … it had never occurred to me that it was a nerve issue … in fact I have an an appointment next week to have this spot checked for skin cancer. So as you can see I have been all over the map trying to understand this. So far I have seen a dermatologist and rheumatologist …and they had no advice.

Liked by stfnwtl89

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@megamom

I have suffered from exactly the same thing for about 50 some years. Having a fever will always trigger an attack but most come for no reason and I am miserable for a couple of days. I can’t even comb my head on the side the attack is on. I have never seen a doctor for it and really have never found anything that makes it better, just have to wait until the attack is over. I just can’ afford to see doctors and have a bunch of tests and still no real answer. The good news is it hasn’t killed me. I often said though if the pain was constant it would or I would at least wish I was dead.

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I understand…. I could not bear the pain if it lasted any longer than a few seconds. I still find myself totally "wiped out" after a week of this pain for I remain tense not knowing when the next jolt will be delivered. Please read my post at the bottom of the page … and possibly consider taking a prednisone tablet. I was at the peak of my latest episode with bolts hitting every 19 to 56 seconds apart (yes…I time my rest between zaps), but within 2-3 hours after taking the prednisone the zaps abruptly stopped. I am super sensitive to drugs and have a very small frame so it doesn't take much of any drug to have an affect on me, Consider giving it a try if your doctor agrees. I believe (but I am not a doctor) that prednisone speeds the healing of an infected or "raw" nerve … and if a raw nerve is the root cause of your zaps, this might be a quick and inexpensive way to provide comfort. … Please share any solutions that you find .. I am always happy to hear and try anything that addresses this problem.

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