Tingling Scalp: What Could It Mean?

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Shruti Chavan , MBBS, Dermatologist, Dermatologist
Written by Ramona Sinha

A tingling scalp can be very irritating at times, particularly when you have people around you. This ‘pins-and-needles’ sensation on your scalp is the result of a benign and temporary condition called paresthesia.

But why does this condition occur? Does it imply an underlying condition that requires immediate attention? Does it cause any hair loss? In this article, we will answer all your queries about tingling scalp and list a few home remedies you may consider to treat this condition. Let us get started.

What Is The Tingling Sensation On The Scalp? What Does It Mean?

You may be acutely familiar with the “pins-and-needles” and tingling sensation on your legs when you suddenly move after sitting in the same position for long. That tingling sensation is a result of paresthesia. It may occur on any body part, including the scalp. A tingling sensation on the scalp is caused by scalp sensitivity. It is often accompanied by prickling and burning sensations (1).

Paresthesia can be temporary (acute) or recurring (chronic). There is no scientific diagnosis of paresthesia. However, your scalp may become sensitive due to (1):

In the next section, we have explored the causes in detail. Keep scrolling.

Possible Causes Of Tingling Sensation On The Scalp

1. Cold Or Sinus Infections

Facial and scalp tingling may be triggered by nerve compression or damage caused by cold or sinusitis.

The sinuses are an interconnected system of cavities located behind the nose, cheeks, and forehead. When you contract respiratory infections, such as the flu, cold, or sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), the sinuses swell up. The enlarged sinuses compress the surrounding nerves, triggering a tingling sensation on your face and scalp (2).

2. Anxiety Or Stress

Anxiety or stress could also lead to a tingling sensation on the scalp. Chronic stress can trigger pain and inflammation. During stressful situations, your amygdala (a collection of cells near the brain’s base) sends signals to release stress hormones and prepares your body for a fight or flight response.

Often, false beliefs regarding the stressor may exaggerate your psychological stress response, initiating pain or prolonging an existing pain (3). The same mechanism may cause scalp tingles.

3. Headaches And Migraine

Migraine is associated with “migraine aura,” which causes a tingling sensation on the head and the face (4). Migraines and headaches alter the way the blood flows into the head and the scalp. This can cause a combination of hypoesthesia, dysesthesia, paresthesia, or tenderness (5).

4. Diabetes

Untreated diabetes could cause nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy), typically in the peripheral regions, such as the legs. However, it could also cause focal neuropathy, damaging the single nerves in the head, torso, or limbs (6). Hence, it could lead to headaches and tingling on the scalp (7).

5. Side Effect Of Drugs And Medications

Prescription medicines, such as chemotherapy drugs, high blood pressure medicines, and anticonvulsants, may cause a tingly scalp. Recreational drugs (various forms of cannabis) and substance abuse (alcohol and tobacco) may produce psychological sensations, including a tingling scalp. Scientific research to explain this phenomenon is underway, and there is no concrete evidence for it currently.

6. Head Injuries

The relation between scalp tingles and head injuries is pretty straightforward and obvious. Head injuries may cause nerve damage and result in recurrent scalp numbness and tingling.

7. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive degenerative disorder where the body attacks the central nervous system (CNS). This condition causes neuropathic pain and continuous burning, tingling, and aching sensations (8).

Similarly, neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, may also cause a tingling sensation on the scalp.

8. Epilepsy And Seizures

Those who have epilepsy may experience partial focal seizures (such as Jacksonian seizures). These seizures are characterized by unusual electrical activity localized to a small part of the brain. As a result, an individual may experience consistent tingling, numbness, burning, and prickling sensations in the head or facial region (9).

9. Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune disorders cause the body’s immune system to attack the surrounding cells and tissues. And quite possibly, they may also damage the nerves in the head and cause a tingling scalp.

Some autoimmune conditions that may cause a tingling scalp are:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Lupus
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Sjögren syndrome

10. Stroke Or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Strokes damage the nerves that may cause multiple issues like visual issues, memory problems, poor hand-eye coordination, issues with movement and sensation, and tingling scalp.

Other Causes

Other causes of a tingly scalp are:

  • ASMR (a sensory experience that triggers tingling sensation)
  • Poor posture
  • Lack of head hygiene or scalp skin conditions
  • Ringworm
  • Head lice
  • Lyme disease
  • Encephalitis
  • Shingles
  • Occipital neuralgia
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • High blood pressure
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency (10)
  • Hypothyroidism (11)
  • Brain tumors

A tingling scalp may be caused by multiple issues. But, can it cause hair loss? Find out in the next section.

Can A Tingling Scalp Indicate Hair Loss?

Interestingly, tingly scalp and hair loss are related. It is one of the symptoms of alopecia areata. Several individuals reported experiencing burning, itching, and tingling sensations on the scalp around the same time when their hair fell out (1). Damage to the hair follicles may cause one or all of these sensations.

Other than scalp tingles, different forms of alopecia, such as neutrophilic scarring alopecia and cicatricial alopecia, also cause trichodynia, a painful sensation on the scalp for no apparent medical reason (12). Scalp tingling and hair loss may go hand-in-hand in rare cases.

Not all kinds of scalp tingling require medical intervention. Typically, head paresthesis goes away on its own when the pressure on the nerve is released. If you are experiencing a tingling scalp and wondering how to manage it, here are some ways.

Home Remedies And At-Home Treatments For Scalp Tingle

  • Do a skin patch test for any shampoo or conditioner before using it. Avoid any hair products that may irritate the scalp and cause tingling.
  • Consult your doctor if any medicine causes the tingling sensation. They may change the medication.
  • Eat a balanced meal, exercise, indulge in relaxing activities, and sleep well to combat stress and anxiety.
  • Maintain good sitting and sleeping postures.
  • Take care of the scalp health and treat scalp issues right away.
  • Get regular health checkups to identify any underlying condition.

You can try these methods if the tingling sensation is not caused by any underlying health issue. Otherwise, consult a doctor immediately.

When Should You Seek Medical Help For Tingling Scalp?

Consult a doctor if:

  • The tingly sensation on your scalp is persistent for several days.
  • The scalp tingling is hampering your day to day activities.
  • It is accompanied by other symptoms of heart issues, excessive hair loss, diabetes.

Final Thoughts

While tingling and itchy scalp can be frightening, most of the time, it is not a cause for major concern. Often, bacterial buildup and conditions like dandruff can cause a tingling sensation. With some primary hair care and regular treatment, the sensation will subside. However, if you do experience chronic tingling, seek medical aid immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anxiety cause scalp tingle?

Yes! Stress and anxiety can overstimulate the body, causing scalp tingles.

Can scalp tingle signify hair growth?

No. On the contrary, the tingly sensation could be an indication of alopecia areata and hair fall.


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Dr. Shruti Chavan

( MBBS, Dermatologist)
Dr. Shruti Chavan is a consulting dermatologist at Dr.Sheth's Skin and Hair Clinic since 6 years. She is a co-committee... more