i think i turned cubist for a sec there.
December 29, 2007 11:36 AM   Subscribe

sometimes out of nowhere, my sense of physical orientation gets all messed up and i feel like i'm crooked. huh?

i'm not sure i know how to describe this, so i'm gonna talk too much here. sorrry in advance.

once in a while, when i was a kid, especially if i had the flu or something, i'd be lying in bed and suddenly feel like the bed had done a 180' and it was suddenly stuck to the ceiling, or maybe standing straight up on edge. i could see with my eyes that it hadn't, but it really *felt* like it had. it wasn't quite a bad feeling, but it was leading that way- like if it had been 20% more intense i might have felt nauseous. kind of cool, kind of unsettling.

i had a bad, snotty flu last week, which coincided with an intense chimpanzee desire to find a giant ball of wax in my ear, so i allowed warm shower water to pound into my ear for a bit, and then chased that with some murine ear drops (peroxide & alcohol & glycerine, basically) and a whoosh with more warm water from the little murine turkey baster thingie. no wax came out, but my ears did feel weird, kind of stuffed up and achey, for a couple days after. i couldn't tell if the discomfort was from the flu or the water or the peroxide drops or what- i assumed it was from both. but in no way did that ear discomfort make me feel like i'd done lasting damage or anything, it just felt like a stuffy head and sore throat / ear tubes.

sitting at my desk the other night, i felt the upside-down feeling for the first time in years. this was maybe 2 or 3 days after the ear-flushing, and i was about halfway over the flu. i was sitting slouched down in a stable, stationary kitchen chair (no wheels or tilt levers), looking at my laptop, and suddenly, i felt like my body was vertical, as though the chair legs were on the wall. i could see myself, nothing had changed, but i had a very strong feeling of being vertical, and therefore tilted uncomfortably forward, although i was leaning back at like a 45' angle. i moved, sat forward with my elbows on the table, and everything still felt crooked and weird. i could feel the seat of the chair very acutely under my butt & thighs, and it felt distinctly crooked, like 20' off to one side, which it wasn't. everything felt all cubist and tilty, and i felt like if it got any worse, it would be nauseating- as it was, it was borderline. i looked over at a mirror on the wall, and everything of course looked fine, but even with that reference point, i felt disoriented and just "crooked". parts of me even felt crooked in reference to other parts of me- it wasn't like everything just felt evenly tilted to one side, it was like my legs tilted 20' left, my elbows 40' right, and my head 60' forward or something. it was intense and kind of overwhelming. i stood up, still looking in the mirror, and my balance was fine, i wasn't canted to one side or swaying or anything, but i still felt crooked. not really dizzy, though, just crooked, although those two feelings are kind of similar somehow. the feeling passed after a couple minutes, but kind of slowly.

this has happened maybe 3 times in the past couple days. i haven't had any problems with my inner ears ever before, i haven't repeated the earwax-flushing attempts, my flu is feeling much better, and i have no history of drug use- although i think i was on dayquil and advil when the first episode happened.

i'm not really worried, but i'm curious and a little confused. anyone have any insight for me? what is this feeling, and why does it happen?
posted by twistofrhyme to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Inner ear infection can do it.
posted by 6:1 at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2007

yeah, i thought so too, but it only lasted for a couple minutes, then went away for a day. and it just happened again, but for like 2 minutes and now i'm fine. wouldn't an inner ear infection cause more consistent symptoms, rather than 2 minutes on, 2 days off?
posted by twistofrhyme at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2007

I have days like that too. There are days when I wake up and feel 6inches taller than I am. There are days when I feel shorter. There are days when I definitely feel "disjointed". It doesnt happen often (maybe 2 or 3 times a month).. and as far as I know i'm in good health (havent had a physical in years, but no outward signs of anything wrong) Sometimes if I relax and sit down and do a bunch of slow stretching (getting back in tune with my body), I can sync back up and my body feels fine.
posted by jmnugent at 11:49 AM on December 29, 2007

I don't think inner ear infections necessarily produce consistent symptoms. The fluid randomly swishing around can throw you off. I'm haven't had these symptoms, but I've had intense ear pain for like a minute that would then totally go away now and then.
posted by whoaali at 11:51 AM on December 29, 2007

consider consuming more iron.
posted by mateuslee at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2007

I would ask my doctor about these bouts of vertigo. Trouble with the inner ear, spine, or blood pressure caused vertigo and balance trouble in folks I've known. This disorientation would be even more unpleasant to experience, say, while driving, walking stairs, or using a ladder. Hope you get to feeling better, in the meantime.
posted by bonobo at 12:09 PM on December 29, 2007

I had the same feeling come over me once while sitting at a desk in a large room surrounded by many other people. Suddenly I felt like the room tipped backwards and I was about to slip off the edge of the earth. I grabbed my desk to keep from falling into the abyss. I looked up, expecting to see my coworkers dangling from their desks as well, but was met with puzzled looks by those nearby.

A visit to my doctor showed I had a low-level sinus/ear infection.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:12 PM on December 29, 2007

A few years back a pair of headphones I was listening to shorted out and gave me a sizeable shock in the right ear. Since then I've had the sort of sensations you describe, though usually for me it's a sensation that I'm tilting backwards and to the right. Happens anywhere from a few times a day to a few times a week; it waxes and wanes. This has been going on for three years now.

The doctors' theory is that I have inner ear damage as a result of the electric shock. Since the inner ear is so cozily surrounded by the skull, I'm told, it's hard to figure out what's going on in there. And I too have found it a bit hard to describe the sensation - tilted or crooked don't quite get it, nor does 'dizzy.' Over time, I've found I can ignore the sensation fairly well (I've had no trouble with driving). But it remains disconcerting.

So my guess would be an inner ear thing. I would guess your symptoms are more likely due to an ear infection (maybe exacerbated by the irrigation) than as a result of damage from the ear irrigation - it doesn't sound like you were irrigating the canal in a way that would cause physical damage. And for most people I've heard describe these symptoms, they were connected to an inner ear infection and only temporary. But then, I'm no doctor, who'd probably be able to give you a better answer. Hope you feel better soon.
posted by Chanther at 1:27 PM on December 29, 2007

during my last few months in LA i had an (undiagnosed) ear infection that caused these symptoms. it turned out that air conditioning aggravated the condition. when i was outside, it would settle down, but in the office or a car, it would get worse.

back in canada, no one has air conditioning, and i haven't had the sensation for months...
posted by klanawa at 2:09 PM on December 29, 2007

Labyrinthitis is recurring and can be (extremely) intermittent. If you have the intermittent kind, you are truly blessed because let me tell you, a severe bout of labyrinthitis SUCKS.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:05 PM on December 29, 2007

I had a very similar problem, only mine was that I consistently felt as if I were "walking crooked." I visited a neurologist and had an MRI, but the tests were normal. It didn't occur to anyone to be an inner-ear infection, but one doctor believed it was anxiety-related & I was prescribed medication for it. It seemed to subside, but not entirely. Finally, the episodes just seemed to diminish on their own, which makes me think it could have been an undiagnosed ear infection all along...
posted by Lillitatiana at 5:20 PM on December 29, 2007

Just in case it turns out not to be inner-ear related, I offer you this: Flu can do funny things to your body in addition to the usual symptoms. Once I was recovering from the flu and my sense of smell got all screwed up. Foods I normally enjoyed (e.g., mayonnaise) smelled awful. It cleared up on a week or two, and never returned.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:15 PM on December 30, 2007

just for the sake of continuity, i thought i'd mention that it hasn't happened in 3 days now, and as it only happened a couple times to begin with, plus the fact that it was much more confusing than it was distressing, i'm gonna chalk it up to being related to my snotty flu, and now consider it healed. thanks all, for your advice!
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:59 PM on January 1, 2008

« Older Remove my face from Facebook?   |   Can you help me and my family plan a roadtrip in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.