Tingling in the head

Dear Dr.

Thanks for taking the time and reading my concern and I highly appreciate your advise.

I injured my lower back in October which lead to a slight bulge in the L3-L4 and L4-L5 of the spine. At the time my doctor advised exercises to close the bulge and nothing more.

However, since then my situation has gotten worse and I've started experiencing symptoms of sciatica - tingling in the legs, mild bands of nerve pain along the thighs, shin, pain in the lower back when I bend forward, etc - all of it triggered as soon as I sit in my office chair or on the floor.

In addition to these symptoms I experience tingling in the head (and sometimes in the face) as soon as I sit in my chair. Along with the tingling I also feel pressure exerted outward from within the top and side of the head. Tingling is also felt when I move my neck sideways while seated.

As soon as I get up from the chair and start moving around I feel better.

Based on the little knowledge I have about of the human nervous system, the sciatic nerve only runs down the lower body. Why would sitting and (possibly) irritating the sciatic nerve cause tingling in the head?

It appears that I have problems both in the lower back and the upper back, which worries me.

What would you advise me to do?

Warm Regards,

Hello Ranjit,
You almost certainly have two different problems, one in the lower back, and one in the neck.

In theory, it's possible for a condition called cervical spinal stenosis - a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck - to effect the legs, but it's unlikely. The fact that you get tingling in the legs when you bend forwards, and sit, points to the lower back.

When movements of your head and neck cause tingling in the arms, then you can be sure it's coming from your neck too.

Get X-rays of both your neck and back, and start looking for a doctor / chiropractor / physiotherapist who can address these problems.

The chair is often the biggest enemy. Try and sit less especially in the luxury comfortable chairs. And the car.

Ice is your best friend for pain, see our latest newsletter.

Do our lower back exercises EVERY morning before getting out of bed, but avoid any exercises that involving lifting the head - that will affect the neck condition adversely. Do them as often as possible.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

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Sep 30, 2011
Tingling accompanies pressure in eyes/head
by: Anonymous

Dear Dr.B,

Thanks for your detailed response. I have started performing my exercises (a lot of stretching) in the morning and evening.

My neurologist has ordered a neck and servical MRI and I am eager to have it performed. In the meanwhile, I've been trying out different types of chair, seat and back cushions, and what have you.

Lately, in addition to the tingling in the head, I feel a lot of pressure in the head and the eyes when I am sitting. Perhaps blow flow is being cut off. This causes dizziness, mental fog and difficulty thinking and making speech.

Can an improper chair/bad posture cause pressure in the head and cut off blood flow?

Thanks for your insights. I appreciate it.


Hello Ranjit,
You have to rely on your local neurologist for advice. Obviously I have no idea if you have a neck or brain problem, high blood pressure, or whether this mental fog is being caused by your medication. Beware of anti-cholinergic medication, they are known to cause exactly these symptoms.

Have you had cold water squirted in your ears, or the Hallpark-Dix test done, where your neck is extended and turned to the side? Tests for an inner ear problem, the most common cause of dizziness: BPPV Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.

Work with your local doctors, and if you can find a chiropractor...

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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