If you are experiencing goosebumps with MS, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Here’s what you need to know about goosebumps with MS, including what they feel like, what may be causing them, and how other members of MyMSTeam experience this symptom.
Goosebumps (also known as goose pimples or gooseflesh) usually occur when small muscles just under the skin flex, rather than relax. The flexing causes the hairs in hair follicles to stand up straight, rather than allowing them to lie flat against the skin as they would normally do. These movements are not muscle spasms.
This automatic reaction helps the body hold onto heat when it begins to get too cold by closing off the skin’s pores. The tiny muscles that contract are also connected to stem cells in the hair follicles. These cells control hair growth. Thus, it may be that goosebumps help the body retain a layer of heat while also stimulating more hair growth for long-term warmth.
Goosebumps can also be triggered by any emotion that arouses the sympathetic nervous system. Various emotions, including fear or awe, can cause goosebumps.
Occasionally, goosebumps may indicate a serious medical disorder, though these goosebumps usually persist without another explanation. Goosebumps that seem unusual or that don’t go away should be investigated by health care professionals as soon as possible.
There is not much research that specifically focuses on goosebumps in people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. However, goosebumps could fall into a couple of categories of MS symptoms.
MS is associated with several altered sensations, which are sensations that don’t seem tied to reality — such as feeling wetness on your skin when it’s really dry. Goosebumps that occur when a person is not cold and not feeling a strong emotion may fall into this category.
These altered sensations are caused by the damage to the myelin sheath covering the nerves (demyelination) that’s characteristic of MS. Messages are not getting sent to the brain properly, or the brain cannot interpret the messages properly. When this disruption happens, the brain attempts to tie the signal it’s receiving to something that’s happened before or something a person can imagine happening to them. This response can create odd and unexpected sensations, like goosebumps when it’s warm.
People diagnosed with MS may also be more sensitive to cold than those without MS. This sensitivity can occur when a lesion develops on the part of the brain that interprets temperature or responds to cooler temperatures. Increased cold sensitivity can also happen because certain temperatures can affect how quickly messages are passed along the nervous system. Both of these effects can cause a person with MS to feel colder than the actual temperature might warrant, which may lead to frequent goosebumps.
MyMSTeam members experience goosebumps with MS regularly, though the exact prevalence of this symptom among those diagnosed is unknown.
Many members experience goosebumps at unusual times, like when they are not cold at all. One posed a question: “Just curious if anyone else with MS has goosebumps all the time. It’s always like that, even when I’m not cold.”
One member wrote, “When I get really hot, my arms and legs get goosebumps.” Another added, “During the daytime, it can be cool or warm, and I will get goosebumps all over.”
These goosebumps can be frustrating and annoying. One member described their experience, writing, “I was researching whether MS is the reason I get goosebumps constantly, even if I’m hot — women will understand how annoying that is, especially right after shaving and your hair grows right back! It’s not emotion- or climate-induced, but I get goosebumps around four times a day!”
Another member reported experiencing frequent goosebumps, writing, “Oh, and I had the usual goosebumps.”
For others, goosebumps indicate a flare-up or MS relapse. As one member explained, “Goosebumps were my first symptom for my first relapse. It came on suddenly. I would lean over or put a shirt on and have goosebumps on my flanks, arms, torso, and back. And then it hit my lower body, crept up my legs, and went to ice-cold feet 24/7. It lasted for two months.”
Some members experience goosebumps only when they are cold — but they feel cold all the time. “I am freezing all the time,” wrote one member. “I just came in from being outside to get warmed up. It’s 90 here today, and I was lying in my lounge chair in the sun for almost an hour. I even got goosebumps at one point during that time.”
Others experience temperature swings, complete with goosebumps even when their environment is not that cold. “Either I’m super hot, or a slight breeze gives me goosebumps,” explained one member.
A few MyMSTeam members have had other unusual experiences with goosebumps.
One wrote, “I’ve been hating the cold this winter. Goosebumps feel like knives all over.”
Although most members haven’t mentioned experiencing unusual sensations along with their goosebumps, this person’s experience is evidence that it can happen.
Another member described experiencing something like goosebumps as a precursor to facial or head numbness. “For me, it feels a little like goosebumps when it’s coming on.”
Research indicates that goosebump-like sensations (along with others, like prickling or tingling sensations) can precede this kind of numbness. Thus, feeling like you have goosebumps may mean that more symptoms of MS are on their way.
No matter the cause of your goosebumps, it’s important to talk to your doctor or neurologist about them — especially if the goosebumps are uncomfortable, frustrating, or causing mental distress. One member expressed having feelings like this: “These ‘goosebumps’ are in my head. I hate drugs, but I can’t deal with this anymore. Anyone know of any meds I can talk to my neuro about?”
Always ask your doctor for medical advice if you are concerned about a new or worsening symptom. Working with a neurologist to find the right MS treatment or set of treatment options for your symptoms could help minimize these goosebumps, no matter how you are experiencing them or what is causing them.
On MyMSTeam, the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones, more than 183,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with multiple sclerosis.
Have you experienced goosebumps with MS? Share your experience in the comments below or by posting on MyMSTeam.