Head numbness, or skin numbness medically described as head paresthesia, is experienced as a disturbing lack of sensation in the head or portions of the head and face. This numbness results from a variety of causes, some traumatic and others due to infection or underlying disease.
Trauma or injury to the head can produce nerve damage leading to head numbness and other acute neurological disorders. Irritation and pressure on the cervical nerves as well as traumatic injury to the head causing blood loss, contributes to the loss of sensation in the scalp, face and head. The trigeminal nerve can also be injured as a complication of dental treatment or affected by a disease condition such as diabetes.
Spinal Cord Injury
Irritation, trauma, or underlying degenerative disease affecting the cervical nerves along the spinal column can cause head numbness. Cervical nerves, specifically identified as C1-C4, are responsible for transmitting sensation to the head or face. Disorders such as meningitis, multiple sclerosis, tumor, herniated and degenerative disk disease, impact the spinal cord.
Also known as shingles, herpes zoster affects groups of facial nerve clusters and cervical nerves, producing a host of symptoms including itching, intense pain, tingling and head numbness. Numbness may occur only on one side of the head.
A stroke can cause head numbness by restricting blood flow to the brain and head. The flow through the artery in the neck is interrupted and oxygen circulation is impeded, causing the numbness.
Head numbness can be but one of the symptoms caused by epilepsy. Convulsions also interrupt the flow of blood through the artery in the neck leading to decreased blood flow to the head and numbness.
Bites from ticks can bring on acute paralysis of muscles controlling eye movement and other neurological reflex disorders. Toxins found in tick saliva or bacteria carried and transmitted through a tick bite, can cause head numbness. Ticks carrying Lyme disease, can produce head numbness in the months or years after the bite. In contrast, tick paralysis, a rare disease with associated acute neurological symptoms, can be successfully reversed within 24 hours of removing the tick from a human host.
Positional Head Numbness
Sometimes people sleep or watch television while lying on the back and with the head twisted to one side facing one shoulder. At times, blood flow is restricted through the artery in the neck, decreasing circulation to the head and causing head numbness. Numbness can also occur from propping the temple of the head against a wrist or arm, restricting the blood flow until the position is changed.
Muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, or upper back from either physical work or emotional stress can produce head numbness. The pressure produced by the affected muscles irritates nerves that serve the head and scalp, causing numbness.
- "Journal of the American Medical Association"; Cluster of Tick Paralysis Cases-Colorado, 2006;WJ Pape et al; October 2006
- "Journal of the American Medical Association"; A 70-year-old Woman with Shingles; Richard J. Whitley; July 2009