Numbness and Tingling

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: December 2019

Migraine symptoms are not always confined to the head. Sometimes there are other parts of the body that are affected by migraine. As changes occur in the brain, different sensations may be felt all over the body.

It is not uncommon to feel numbness or tingling in a small or large area of the body. These symptoms are sometimes associated with sensory aura.

Numbness and tingling symptoms

During a migraine attack, you may experience a variety of symptoms that can interfere with your senses such as aura.1 Auras are not experienced by every person with migraine. It is estimated that only about 20-30 percent of people with migraine experience aura.2 Along with light flashes or other odd visual changes, tingling or numbness can occur and may involve:

  • Numb fingers
  • Numb face
  • Arm numbness
  • Head numbness
  • Numbness in the lips, tongue or legs
  • Numbness on one side of the body

Length and severity of sensations

The aura usually starts within an hour before any head pain starts, and lasts less than 60 minutes.1 Most often the sensations occur on the same side of the body as the pain in the head, but some people do not have head pain with migraine.

Hemiplegic migraine with numbness and tingling

People who experience hemiplegic migraine, where one-sided weakness accompanies migraine, numbness and tingling are common symptoms.3 These can last hours to days, and in rare cases, weeks. Most of the time the symptoms resolve on their own.

Occasionally, the numbness is so severe that the person with migraine feels they can’t move that part of the body. The tingling skin sensation may be in only one specific part of the body, such as feeling weak or numb in only one finger, or a small part of the face.

Why do numbness and tingling occur?

It is not known for certain why migraine aura occurs, including the numbness and tingling. Some doctors believe that migraine with aura may be similar to an electrical or chemical wave moving along the areas of the brain responsible for vision and sensation. These waves then cause the symptoms that sometimes appear with aura.1

How are numbness and tingling treated?

For migraine with aura, including numbness and tingling, the treatment focuses on relieving the migraine pain. There are drugs that you can take when you feel the aura or migraine coming on. These drugs work best when taken as soon as possible. Other drugs may be taken regularly to help prevent the migraine and its symptoms from starting in the first place. Lifestyle changes and stress management may help some people manage migraine.

Some drugs that can be taken when a migraine aura starts include:1

  • Pain relievers
  • Triptans (a type of prescription medication used for migraine)
  • Dihydroergotamines (prescription medications for migraine)

To help prevent migraine, medications can include:1

Lifestyle changes that can help manage migraine and its symptoms include:1

Talk with your doctor about your numbness and tingling associated with your migraine so they know how you experience it. They may want to do other tests, or just keep an eye on it. By discussing your symptoms, you can work with your care team to find something that works to ease your symptoms as much as possible.

Tracking your migraine symptoms

Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers to your attacks. It may be helpful to record such things as:

  • When and where your pain or symptoms start
  • Whether the pain spreads to your entire head or neck
  • How well and how quickly acute treatment helps reduce the pain or other symptoms
  • How long your pain or symptoms last
  • Whether you experience other symptoms such as vision changes, nausea, or light sensitivity

Community experiences with numbness and tingling advocates write about their various migraine numbness and tingling symptoms. Our advocates who experience hemiplegic migraine attacks have shared that pain can be accompanied by numbness and tingling on one side of the body. Others experience the numbness spreading throughout their body. In this video, one advocate describes tingling and pain in her hand that moved up her arm. It\'s always important to talk to your doctor if you experience any new and intensifying symptoms.

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