I'm dizzy and I can't turn my head.
September 29, 2008 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Low grade fever, intermittent sore throat, lots of dizziness, extremely stiff neck and upper back, and headache - what's happening to me and how can I make it better?

First, I know you're not my doctor. I'm seeing her tomorrow morning and I've talked on the phone with her associate, who said it sounds like a virus and nothing to run to the ER with. But I've never experienced anything like this before and it's getting a little tiresome.

Woke up last Monday with the stiff neck and upper back. Thought I slept in a weird position, dismissed it, and went out of town on business. During the course of the week, the above symptoms developed. As soon as I got back in town, I spoke to my doctor's office partner, who told me to come in as soon as I can get an appointment, but don't bother rushing to the ER. I'm not too worried, since the fever hasn't gone over 99.8 or so, sore throat has almost entirely gone away. The neck stiffness and dizziness remain.

Have tried Advil, aspirin, and tylenol - headache finally went away, but there's been no change in the neck pain/stiffness. No idea what to do for the dizziness, outside of cutting back the caffeine (which I've done).

Do any of you medical folks have any suggestions as to what's going on, or what I can do to feel a little less icky between now and my doctor visit tomorrow morning? Thanks much.
posted by chez shoes to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
Best answer: I had similar symptoms without the fever a week or two ago and my doctor seemed to think it was a combination of sinus nonsense thanks to the seasons changing, stress and new desk posture, etc. I did find though that the dizziness [i was getting brief intense vertigo which was more scary than it was problematic otherwise] was helped a lot by dramamine. It makes you incredibly sleepy so not great if you're at work, but Advil for relaxing your muscles and dramamine for the vertigo was a good start for managing symptoms until I saw my doc.
posted by jessamyn at 9:59 AM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: Dramamine! Thanks, I had a feeling there was something OTC that might help. Stress and a poor ergonomic setup might indeed be playing a role, too - other reasons why I'm not rushing out to the ER.
posted by chez shoes at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2008

Best answer: Sounds like a standard fever. Just got over one not too long ago and had all the same symptoms (although I had more general achiness rather than stiff neck/back). The sore throat could just be a secondary symptom of being congested (post nasal drip??). Drink plenty of water, take some Advil and that should help the fever break. Glad you're going to the doctor, there are some problems the internet can't help with.
posted by DrDreidel at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2008

Not to sound any crazy alarm bells without reason, but maybe meningitis?
posted by sanka at 10:04 AM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks DrDreidel. Looks like I'm doing everything I can. No congestion as of yet, but there's been a respiratory virus going around so it wouldn't surprise me if that's next :(
posted by chez shoes at 10:05 AM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: Sanka, the first thought I had was meningitis too. The on-call doc said I'd be much sicker by now, and would not have been able to travel and get on with my life this past week.
posted by chez shoes at 10:06 AM on September 29, 2008

Ah, you know, the dizziness and the sore throat may be related at that. I get dizzy spells whenever I have particularly bad sinus congestion -- and the sinus congestion could also be causing the sore throat through post-nasal drip.

The headache could be a sinus thing too, depending on where it is. Or it could be related to the stiff shoulders; it depends on where on your head the headache is.

Sinus congestion doesn't always manifest with a "stuffy nose" -- I've had bad sinus headaches but still been able to breathe freely. Usually an OTC sinus decongestant took care of that (but you do need to get the kind with pseudoephidrine, behind the pharmacy counter).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on September 29, 2008

To relieve the dizziness, stretching out the upper back and neck, or getting a massage always helps. I do feel that the muscle constriction somehow makes blood flow to the head area more difficult.

Whenever I feel dizzy, I stretch out my muscles and it decreases or disappears.
posted by Vaike at 10:24 AM on September 29, 2008

I wouldn't worry about meningitis here. It would be extraordinarily unlikely for an adult to have meningitis without a high fever. The chances are that the doc would have suggested an ER or Urgent Care visit if it sounded even remotely possible that you have meningitis.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:29 AM on September 29, 2008

I had similar symptoms a few months ago, turned out to be mono.
posted by wolfkult at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2008

A heating pad or hot water bottle applied to your neck might help. If you don't have those, a very hot wet washcloth will do the trick.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:44 AM on September 29, 2008

Try a decongestant. Sinuses are hateful and like to mess with a wide spectrum of head/throat/neck areas.
posted by MadamM at 10:49 AM on September 29, 2008

Go to the doctor. LIke other said it could be mono, or even strep throat.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:13 PM on September 29, 2008

Like wolfkuit, your symptoms are similar to what I had in the early stages of mono. The first doctor thought it was a sinus infection because I had post-nasal drip, so I took antibiotics for a week, with a low-grade fever the whole time. Then the fever shot up and I ended up at the ER, where I was finally diagnosed.
posted by PatoPata at 12:17 PM on September 29, 2008

Just FYI, you have documented an elevated temperature, not a fever. Physicians (especially pediatricians) will argue about the exact number, but it's not a fever until it's 100.4F / 38C or greater. Oral temps and axillary temps are usually less than rectal temps, which are true core body temperatures, so you may in fact have a fever, but perhaps not yet!
posted by gramcracker at 1:27 PM on September 29, 2008

You did the smart thing by calling the doc. Keep the number and a cellphone nearby, take aspirin or acetaminophen, drink lots of fluids. Chicken soup is curative, in my opinion, and maybe provably so. Tomorrow morning should be soon enough to see a health care professional.
posted by theora55 at 2:39 PM on September 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all for chiming in - my doc managed to get me in this afternoon, and diagnosed viral labyrinthitis. As I suspected, I can blame the neck/upper back stiffness on good old stress.
posted by chez shoes at 4:17 PM on September 29, 2008

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