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Explaining vertigo/dizziness from lying on my back

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    Explaining vertigo/dizziness from lying on my back

    I fell asleep on my back vs. my side the other night and when I woke up I had terrible vertigo, or maybe it was dizziness; it’s been so long that I forget how to tell the difference. I felt perfectly still lying down, not off kilter or like I was moving, but when I looked at the stationary world it was moving. I turned to sleep to my side and it was gone in the morning.

    I first had it in 1996, along with a spell of Bell’s Palsy. My main neurologist said it (the bell’s palsy) was idiopathic, because it affected both my forehead and mouth (I may be forgetting his facial references). My local neurologist said of course it’s MS, because (once you have an MS diagnosis nothing else fixable is ever wrong with you and) MRI showed a plaque on my pons. I had one other extended (a few days) episode of the vertigo/dizziness over the years, but it always will flash transiently if I bring my head out of extension, where I allow my neck to go only by accident.

    It seems to me I concluded in the past that since falling, sleeping on my back makes my hands numb, so I never purposely do it. But the arm on the side on which I last slept always is a bit compromised after I get up.

    Whether it was MS or something mechanical that compromised and atrophied my cervical cord is an argument I no longer bother having, but my cord in that state now is very vulnerable to mechanical injury. Falling in 2002 totally destroyed my life (before that I lived a fully normal life but for one or two crutches). Going hard into flexion and extension for a CT in 2006 landed me in the hospital overnight.

    Could I be causing more damage when I positionally trigger these things? Would vertigo/dizziness originate in the brainstem, or occipital area? I had a suboccipetal craniectomy and laminectomy through C7, so I don’t have bones there. I figure either pressure on or stretching of my compromised cord causes these transient things. Does that seem plausible?

    How cruel it is that this life robs you even of the joy of sleeping…

    I am sorry you struggling with this. Hey, I wonder if it would be valuable to consider getting your vestibular system (inner ear) tested as one of the possible culprits that could cause that kind of vertigo. You could go to a ENT doc and they could do a ENG (inner ear vestibular test). Or bounce the idea off your neurologist who could tell you if that would be valuable.
    Whatever it turns out to be, I hope you get to sleeping again without this intrusion.


      Thanks Jon. I did the whole vestibular thing years ago at Penn and though I don’t really remember the details, the conclusion was that there was no inner ear or sinus thing that could explain what I was experiencing or the deficits I think they found. And I don’t think those kinds of ‘normal’ things would cause such transient symptoms, and the position of my neck seems much more relevant than that of my head…though I guess coming out of extension affects both. By ‘normal’ I guess I mean ‘other than neurological.’

      I still would love to hear if anyone knows where, neurologically, these things are mediated.

      I don’t think we ever can overestimate the value of sleep. After my car accident years ago I slept 11 or 12 hours a day for a few months maybe, and even despite the recovery strain, it was incredibly restorative. I remember my skin looked great (though maybe micro-dermabrasion via windshield helped), my scars healed well, and I felt always well hydrated and oxogenated (post collapsed lung) whenever horizontal (I see now a lot of what I thought was purely head injury was really orthostatic hypotension, though it took another doubling of my life before a doctor thought to take my blood pressure standing up). Cognition was shot then but I managed to go to school the next year, am sure the sleep must have helped.


        Random, When I had a lesion in the pons area of my brain stem, I also had horrific vertigo. It was not limited to when I was lying on my back, but was certainly present then as well as other times.
        "The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off." -Gloria Steinem


          An inner ear infection, sinus problems and Menniere's disease or problems like that cause this. If it continues you should see an ENT doctor.

          The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.