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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Have heartburn and anxiety. Getting tingling sensation in back. Could it be due to pinched nerve?

Answered by
Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari

Spine Surgeon

Practicing since :2002

Answered : 322 Questions

Posted on Thu, 17 Jan 2013 in Back Pain
Question: Hello,
As a quick overview, I am a 27 y.o. male, 5'11 158 lbs with no diagnosed issues aside from heartburn and anxiety.
For the past couple of months, I've noticed a tingling sensation in the middle of my back at different times throughout the day. It's difficult to describe, but is almost a vibration-type feeling, or maybe ants running in place even. It was at first only on the right mid-back near my spine, although it seems as if it's more bi-lateral now. It extends upwards at times but never down below the middle of my back. I notice it especially after getting out of the shower, and if I bend over while I brush my teeth.

I saw a physician for this along with some back pain I was having and he didn't seem to be the least bit concerned, although I've seen a lot online about how this could possibly be a sign or MS or other horrible issues. I was also worried about my lungs as I used to smoke, although they don't seem congested at all and the tingling moves over the spine to the left side. A pinched nerve or something also came to mind...

I should note that I sit all day for work, rarely get to the gym and don't have the best posture in the world. My logical mind has attributed the tingling to this, although my anxiety makes it difficult to not think about the worst.

Can you please tell me what you think this could be?
Answered by Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 6 hours later

Thanks for the query.

Tingling can be due nerve pinching; however it is relatively rare to happen in thoracic spine and it is usually associated with significant pain. Again in thoracic spine tingling due to nerve pinching runs horizontal along the rib cage and does not travel vertical along spine.

This isolated pathology does not seem to suggest any serious brain problems.

I understand you are worried about this being Multiple Sclerosis; the symptoms are very, very less likely to be related to it. As you said you have anxiety issue, I think it can cause such vague perceptions. Are you on any medicines for the anxiety? Sometimes it can be side effects of the medicine.

It would be a good option to consult a psychiatrist and consider getting treatment for anxiety.

Hope this answers your query. Let me know if you have other enquiries.


Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Prasad
Follow up: Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 18 hours later
Hi Dr,

Thanks for your response. I have been on SSRIs in the past, although I've decided to come off of them two times. I may consider going back on one for the time being.

I should also say that I have a bit of an alcohol problem which I've decided I need to address. I drink probably between 5-8 drinks per night and have for the past two years or so with very few breaks.

Along with the tingling, I've been experiencing what I believe are alcohol withdrawal symptoms simply from drinking so much for so long. I feel weak in the knees, intermittent chills, shakiness and a general sense of heightened anxiety. I've decided to stop drinking for a period of time and see if this helps the symptoms to subside.

All of this has made me very nervous, though, about MS and similar diseases. My concern with these symptoms is that they could be something more serious than alcohol withdrawal. What do you think?
Answered by Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 14 hours later
Thanks for writing back.
I am glad you decided to do something about the alcohol issue. People who have been drinking large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time run the risk of developing serious and persistent changes in the brain. Damage may be a result of the direct effects of alcohol on the brain or may result indirectly, from a poor general health status or from severe liver disease. I would like to discuss one particular disease. Up to 80 percent of alcoholics, however, have a deficiency in thiamine and some of these people will go on to develop serious brain disorders such as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). WKS is a disease that consists of two separate syndromes, a short–lived and severe condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long–lasting and debilitating condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.
The symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes (i.e., oculomotor disturbances), and difficulty with muscle coordination.
Alcohol dependence changes the whole picture. If you have persistent symptoms then I would suggest to consult a neurologist and you may need MRI brain to rule out serious brain issues. A MRI and a detailed neurology examination should help us rule out most serious disorders.
I wish you the very best
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Aparna Kohli
Follow up: Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 6 hours later

This is terrifying to me. I certainly have a history of drinking, but what I'm experiencing now after not having a drink for around 48 hours is simple anxiety/slight dysphoria, which i'm assuming is just part of the withdrawals and should fade soon. I would imagine that I would've had to drink far more than 5-6 drinks in a session to suffer such dramatic, serious illness as you're pointing out. Can you please confirm this? I'm very nervous after reading what you wrote.
Answered by Dr. Rahul D Chaudhari 20 hours later
I apologize for creating such anxious moments. Certainly current symptoms you are experiencing is most probably due to anxiety / alcohol withdrawal. The above answer given earlier was just to give more information about the ill effect of alcohol drinking. The current situation definitely is not likely due to any serious brain issue. I again apologize if they cause more panic.

Don't be nervous; but I would suggest to get examined by a psychiatrist and neurologist. The symptoms can be managed with proper counsel and medications.

Hope this is reassuring. I will be available for further discussion if you have any more queries.


Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Prasad

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