That stretch feels nice... Oh no.
April 22, 2010 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Should I be worried about my nausea and dizziness earlier?

Earlier this evening, I was riding in a car with a friend of mine. My neck was stiff, so I was leaning my head forward to stretch it. I was not quite touching my chin to my chest.

While I was stretching, my friend hit a bump. My head jerked down. My chin touched my sternum. I've stretched that far before, but never so quickly.

Almost immediately afterward, I felt very dizzy and nauseous. My vision swam a bit, and I felt faint. It cleared within a minute, and we continued along.

About five minutes later, I felt the same rush of nausea and dizziness. There was no stretch this time. I asked my friend to pull over, and I laid down on a bench. I felt better after a few minutes.

I admit I'm a hypochondriac. My first thought was that I'd irreparably screwed up a nerve. My second thought was that I'd had a stroke.

I'm feeling mostly better now, though my appetite's gone. I feel like my left side was a bit numb earlier, but I don't know if I was imagining the sensation.

Did I cut off circulation to my brain for a moment? Will that have caused some sort of damage? Should I go to the ER?

I'd like an outside opinion before taking the latter course of action. I can't really see my doctor anytime soon, and I'm not sure if my worries are in my head.

My friend thinks that it was the onset of a migraine. She suffers from severe migraines often. She gave me Tylenol and caffeine after the incident, and I didn't have any headaches. She also suggested an inner-ear problem. I've had ear problems before.

I'm in my early twenties, with no known medical conditions. I've always had tight shoulders and a stiff neck.

I want to mention that, during the onset of the second "attack," I made faces to check for asymmetry (there was none), I balanced on one foot (balance was OK), and I tried to think of words in a second language (mental capacities seemed fine).

Thanks in advance for any help you can give, people who are not my doctor.
posted by omoikkiri to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It has happened to me several times before after tilting my head forward too quickly. Still here and no harm done.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:44 PM on April 22, 2010

You're fine.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:46 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Could it beorthostatic hypotension? It may be harmless... a temporary drop in blood pressure after stretching/standing after being sedentary for some time. I sometimes get lightheaded and dizzy after a good stretch. I've never fainted and it's usually just for a second or two. YMMV, but you're probably ok.
posted by raztaj at 7:50 PM on April 22, 2010

I don't know for sure but it does sound an awful lot like a temporary drop in blood pressure; it's the same symptoms I've had after giving blood and been told it's just low blood pressure. Actually I just had that happen earlier tonight after leaning forward suddenly, so I'm not at all surprised if that's a cause. And lightheadedness is something that I can sometimes "think away" for a moment if I'm distrated, startled or scared, so that would make sense that it comes back a few minutes later (when your initial scare has calmed down)...
posted by Lady Li at 12:28 AM on April 23, 2010


The part of your brain that controls nausea and vomiting is in your brainstem (near where your head connects to your neck). It's possible that the sudden motion of your head squished it just enough to make it wake up take notice. Sort of like pinching a nerve that controls sensation in your arm makes your arm hurt, pinching a nerve that controls nausea makes you nauseated. Sudden motion with your head at an unfamiliar angle may also have been enough to surprise your inner-ear mechanisms that control balance, leading to dizziness.

I kind of doubt that a half-second of extreme neck-stretch would lower the blood pressure in your brain enough to cause symptoms. Since you can still move all your pieces and the problem doesn't seem to be ongoing, I don't think you have anything to worry about. But of course if you develop any other problems (drooping face, weak arms or legs, inability to speak properly, terrible headache, nausea or dizziness that doesn't go away) I think I trip to the hospital would be warranted. Of course that would be true whether or not this weirdo thing had happened in the car.
posted by vytae at 7:52 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

My bet for this: a vasovagal response. (The same thing that caused George W. to choke on a pretzel!) Note that some of the triggers on the page seem related to what you experienced.

It's no big deal.
posted by tss at 8:24 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

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