Fibromyalgia and brain ‘zaps’

“There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me”, Pink Floyd

Just as I thought that I had nothing new to write about I have discovered that the weird ‘brain’ sensations I have, which only lasts for moments, are common among those of us with this frustrating condition of fibromyalgia! I have had these peculiar short lived experiences that are followed by dizziness for several years now. The episodes are almost like a small temporary memory loss, almost feeling faint-like. I don’t have the language to describe them. It is as though my skull almost empties for a few seconds. It is somewhat creepy to imagine a skull without a brain.

Many have written that coming off a medication brings about these zaps/pings/shocks/memory loss/dizziness occurrences. But, I have not come off of any medications. Still, I have read that being on Gabapentin can cause them. I do take 300 to 400 mgs per day. Is this what is causing them? The attacks aren’t too frequent but certainly do cause slight dizziness and loss of balance. I have often had electrical shocks throughout my body- this isn’t the same thing. I have written about ‘brain fog’ several times – again, this isn’t exactly the same thing. I have had vertigo- it is different from that as well. I wish I had the language to describe the episodes. It’s as though my brain loses a second or two into the air, is not in my own body!

Others have written that changes in temperature can affect brain zaps. This may be so as changes in the environment affect all of us with fibromyalgia. But, this isn’t the complete answer. The causes seem to be unknown although definitely connected to the nervous system. Like fibromyalgia itself the problem is that we are seeing so many of us with common symptoms and questions about our nervous systems gone awry, but with very few answers available. There is little doubt in my mind that these zaps are part of my anxiety episodes. It is the cause I keep coming back to. My hyper-aroused central nervous system, based on past trauma, that is in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, is in its usual mode of overload. At least this is the only tentative answer I have for now. It fits with the rest of my modus operandi.

Well, along with other weird sensations those of us with fibromyalgia live with, let us at least know for now that this week-end there are many who will dress up to look and behave even more creepy than our nervous systems! Be safe.


16 thoughts on “Fibromyalgia and brain ‘zaps’

  1. Nancy

    Dang Barbara, we must be leading parallel lives right now! LOL I’ve been having “head” problems too. In fact, I stopped seeing that therapist. He was depressing me and I’ve been in that spiral before, I don’t want to get sucked down any further. It’s taken me a couple weeks but I am feeling better ON MY OWN!! But when I explained to him about the fuzzy feeling I get in my head, that “empty” feeling as you say. It’s almost a drunk feeling without the drinking. I get it every so often. Anyway, he told me I had “dissociation”. Now, I’ve read and reread the definition of that and I’m not so sure of his “diagnosis”. However, you mentioning a hyper-aroused CNS from past trauma being in constant overload makes sense to me. In a roundabout way though, that could also mean dissociation, right? I don’t seem to have control over these brain episodes, do you? That therapist told me mindful meditation would help but so far it hasn’t. These are bad days for me because my balance is worse than normal. And when I try to walk, instead of going straight ahead, I tend to veer to the right. I have to really think hard to force myself to go straight. Have you ever heard of anything like this? Do you have this too? I’m sorry for all the questions today. I also wanted to let you know my breast skin biopsy came back. They believe it’s pre-cancerous. They’re going to remove the entire spot and a portion around it. They’ll take another biopsy during surgery to make sure it isn’t malignant melanoma. Anyway, I love your pumpkins! Did you carve them yourself? I hope you are doing well with your hip and all!
    ~ Nancy

  2. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Nancy when I read your comments I literally screamed out loud. Yes about the brain zaps but more about the balance issues. I had just come in from a 15 minute walk and once more I found myself veering to the right or sometimes left!! I can’t seem to walk in a straight line either! At first I thought it was because of my hip replacement but now I am not so sure. It is slight weaving back and forth? Now, what is that about, I wonder?
    I still have residual pain in the hip but my lumbar spine is badly degenerated as well. I know everone’s discs begin to degenerate at an early age but with aging they become more pronounced. But mine are very bad and a surgeon will not operate.
    I believe the ortho surgeon is peeved at me because I still have hip pain and he said he would not operate on the other hip because of fibro. I knew too that further surgery would be hellish. So, I have to stop whining and live with it. Contemplating medical marihuana, cannabis oil. Hate to keep increasing Gabapentin so maybe an herb like cannabis would be more healthy ( without THC). We’ll see…
    Thanks soooo much for your comments.

  3. Kortney

    I just wanted to chime in and say I am having these exact brain zap type feelings. Mine don’t really consist of memory loss but it’s more of a split second out of it feelings! Sometimes it feels like brief dizziness, other time it feels like pressure, and really I don’t even know how to describe it. The first time I ever felt anything remotely similar was when I stopped taking Lexapro about a year ago. So weird. Sometimes they are really scary, too! Always something new to adjust to and to help fight your anxiety over, huh? I was diagnosed with Fibro about a year ago.

  4. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Hello Kortney:
    Aren’t they aggravating?!They do come and go and luckily I haven’t had one in awhile. You are right there is always something to increase anxiety as we ponder these strange sensations.
    Good to hear from you,

  5. Cynthia Guingrich

    I am having so many zaps all over my body.I hate it. Then I have very sharp pain go through my toe. I have even fainted 3 times with this. Why do we get these zapping pings?

  6. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Dear Cynthia:
    These ‘zaps’ can occur anywhere and I have them frequently. It is all we can do not to make a sound aloud as it is so shocking. In fact, they are like electric shocks. Our brains have such an exceptional ability to know things that are often very subtle. Sometimes changes that are often not visible, like small weather changes, makes us particularly vulnerable and the central nervous system goes into hyper-alert. At least this is how I interpret these zaps that can occur anywhere, for example in your toe!The trick is to remind ourselves we are not in danger, then breathe deeply for a few minutes, and focus on the sensation rather than fighting it.
    We have many challenges and we are the only ones who can help ourselves, no one can ‘cure’ us.We are the expert of our own lives.
    Best wishes and know you are not alone,

  7. Mary Coletta

    So glad to have found others who are having similar experiences. I have Fibromyalgia and have had brain zaps, also body zaps, even body adrenaline rushes in chest legs, etc.
    I’ve been reading up on Focal seizures, which is partial brain seizures. I’ve had them in my sleep and woke up from jolt of electricity in my head. I am also researching how Fibro patients can sometimes suffer from hypoglycemia, so I am carefully regulating my diet and glucose in order to feel well.

  8. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Hi Mary: I have exactly the dame thing one hour after I fall asleep I wake up very abruptly and believe I can’t breathe. It is a shocking and frightening experience. These zaps are so scary. They differ during the day more so than during the night. Confusing and distressing.

  9. Jan

    Hi I have not been diagnosed with fibromyalgia but the brain episodes you ladies have mentioned-I get when driving and it’s so frightening like I’ve been drugged and now instantly feel dopeyAnd I’m driving! I’ve cried at Nuerology appointment for sleep apnea which is mild-doesn’t cause me daytime drowsiness. A few times I was sure I’d go off the road! Nuerology doctor can’t diagnose me. I do have spartic zaps in my body, night muscle spasms legs and feet the Nuerology dr Thinks maybe stress headache but I don’t have a headache and often first thing in morning just listening to music driving to work. Any thoughts ? Sincerely Jan

  10. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Dear Jan: it doesn’t seem as though you have fibromyalgia as your ‘brain episodes’ seem to be the main system you are experiencing. Has the diagnosis of fibromyalgia ever been suggested to you by a neurologist?
    Keep in touch and let us know how you are doing.
    Best wishes,

  11. Judy

    I’ve been diagnosed with FM and have been experiencing brain zaps/buzzing shooting stings in different spots all over my body. I did the Ketogenic diet for about 9 months and the symptoms went almost completely away. I stopped the diet and the symptoms returned. I’m considering going on the Clean KETO diet soon. I’m sure if I can stick to it, it will help a lot! By the way, the KETO diet has been used to help control seizures. Just something to think about.

  12. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Dear Judy: Apparently there isn’t much (if any) research about long term Keto diet but I have a close friend who has been on it for a year and it has controlled her diabetes. However, it is an expensive diet and one must be willing to cook and bake in a different way. So, it takes time and money but if it works then go for it! These things are difficult to research since fibromyalgia is extreme anxiety resulting in an overstimulated central nervous system, that is, the CNS is in a constant of hyperarousal. Keep in touch and let us know how it has helped you, Regards, Barbara

  13. Donna H Tyner

    This is my first time writing here. I have had FM since the mid 90’s after being in a head-on car wreck. I suffer from the constant pain, fatigue, fog, etc. I was put in Lyrica which did help tremendously with the pain, but after being on it for a year or more I started having more confusion, difficulty getting words out, difficulty thinking of the word I was needing, difficulty writing along with a long list of other symptoms. I was tested for MS and Myasthenia Gravis both of which were ruled out. At that point my doctor took me off the Lyrica and some of the symptoms improved and none have gone completely away. I have had brain zaps for years (although I did not know that’s what they were) and to begin with they were very infrequent. Now, within the last year, they have become very frequent. I describe them as “Whoa, what just happened?” I have tried the cannabis oil (non THC) and it seemed to help at first, but now I am not so sure. Because of the worsening symptoms of balance, staggering, brain zaps, dizziness, etc. I have gotten a mobility service dog to help me feel more stable. I am a life-time coumadin patient because of a blood clotting disorder (my blood clots too much) and therefore I am afraid of falling. Reading the other posts has helped me understand about the “brain zaps”. I am glad I found you.

  14. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Dear Donna: I am happy you found us but While I wrote so much in past years I began to feel like I was becoming redundant. I have said the whole thing over and over- just like the health care professionals keep telling us the same things over and over about Covid. All that you say is my story too and that of millions of sufferers. I had found last winter as I said mostly on lock down from the virus that my symptoms were less problematic mainly because there wasn’t much excitement in my life( Obviously). But as spring and summer began and a bit more social interaction some degree of excitement and interacting with others and the HEAT(!) made my symptoms accelerate. But is it we are to live in a cocoon with isolation from living a more interactive life? What a dilemma for those of us who are vulnerable to this dreaded disease! What will this winter bring? Will our symptoms become worse or better as we hibernate again?
    The idea of a mobility dog is wonderful. I envy you so much! My balance too is terrible and I have all the symptoms you have addressed. I guess I am not very helpful as we face a world of chaos and try to live in the moment, one day at a time with these compromised central nervous systems of ours. Keep in touch, Regards,

  15. Jennifer

    Wow ok so I have had brain zaps before while I was withdrawaling from cymbalta. But today they just started out if the blue. No new meds no meds taken off. I’m kinda freaking out here. How can I slow them or stop them? I have been under extremely high stress lately.

  16. Barbara Keddy Post author

    Hi Jennifer: I recognize that you have already made the link between high stress and these brain zaps. The same happens to me. I sort of go blank for a few minutes. I am not able to diagnose as I am not an MD but the relationship between high stress and an almost loss of awareness for a few seconds seems to be a common occurrence. Its almost like an extreme sense of anxiety bordering on panic for me. This is particularly true when we are all worrying about Covid and the holidays are added to our anxiety. BUT, if such brain ‘farts’ continue you should have it checked out. Lets hope that 2021 brings things than the last year and hopefully our anxiety levels will decrease somewhat. It all seems so hopeless right now. Exercise, eat well, practice mindfulness and stay safe indoors as much as possible in these winter months. I resist saying wear a mask, social distancing etc but these are good strategies for those of us at this time. Hopefully after you get the vaccine your stress will decrease somewhat. HAPPY 2021!

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