Migraine with vertigo

Recently I read on Migraine.com about vertigo and its relationship to migraine disease. Unfortunately, research is inconclusive thus far—that is, no one is really sure why such a high percentage of migraineurs report vertigo associated with their migraine episodes.

In any case, the mention of vertigo reminded me of something that’s been happening to me with disturbing frequency. I used to be slightly afraid of heights but had no problems dealing with being on high roofs—true, I’d step back from being directly at the edge of the Empire State Building when I took friends there in my NYC days, but I never got dizzy or worried I’d topple over. But things have changed in recent years, and I feel dizzy and off-center when I’m in very high places (or sometimes when I’m just walking down the street!).

My mother has often described how off-balance she feels in stadium seating at concerts. The woman loves some rock music but doesn’t go to really big rock shows unless she can get seats that are in the lower section—navigating those super-steep concrete stairs in the nosebleed section is a hindrance for her (plus the view isn’t nearly as good!). I tried to be understanding in talking to her about this but didn’t really comprehend where she was coming from until relatively recently.

At a Fleetwood Mac concert a couple years ago in Atlanta, I felt as if the ground had been whisked away from under my feet as I tried to find my way to my seat in the darkened amphitheatre. With one hand I grabbed for my boyfriend’s arm; the other was swinging behind me as if to keep me balanced on a tightrope. As soon as I sat down, things were fine, but I was disconcerted, to say the least. I didn’t think much about that particular instance of vertigo until a few months ago when I was in Washington, D.C. for a booksellers conference.

I was navigating D.C.’s [clean, efficient] Metro system, in a hurry to get to a party at the Library of Congress. I entered the Metro station and found myself at the top of an impossibly long, dimly-lit, skinny escalator. From the top, I could not see the bottom due to the bad lighting and the number of people on the escalator. I felt that same feeling I’d experienced at the concert long before—a rush of wind around my ears, a sense that the ground had tilted and that my feet were not to be trusted.

I admit I’m not the best at keeping up with a migraine diary, so I have yet to really see if the dizziness and off-centered-ness I occasionally feel are actually related to a particular phase of a migraine episode (that is, if they’re related at all). I’m not comfortable with this newfound imbalance and know I need to make a more concerted effort to see when it’s occurring and if there’s anything I may be able to do to ease the frustration and slight trepidation that come along with it.

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Comments

View Comments (17)
  • BB
    8 years ago

    My migraines start with dizziness, imbalance, vertigo, nausea and vomiting. Then after the vomiting I have the horrific head pain. If I start my meds when I feel dizzy it stops the vertigo. Right now for the past 4 months, I can control it with 1000mg acetaminophen, switching with 3 pills of naproxen sodium next dose every 6 to 8 hours. I had the dizziness, imbalance, vertigo, nausea and vomiting for almost 2 years before finding this out in the book “Heal Your Headache” Seeing a Neurologist next week. Maybe there is something I can take less frequently.

  • Dorne Whale
    8 years ago

    This is very interesting as I have suffered with dizziness for some time now. I have extremely low blood pressure and just assumed it was connected with that. Sometimes the slightest turn of my head can throw me off balance and I hit the deck.This may be connected with my very regular migraines – at least two a week at present.

  • Sandy Fernet
    8 years ago

    Sorry I did not stay with the topic…with the vertigo related to migraines…I get a really bad feeling of dizziness before the headache…I have other symptoms too…but that keeps you very restricted. During the headache…am off balance and sometimes afraid to go out or do anything. I don’t know anyone that suffers like this and am happy to have found this blog.

  • Sandy Fernet
    8 years ago

    I am now so frustrated with migraines and vertigo. I do have benign positional vertigo…but it is different with the headache. My headaches are frequent…and they are food related to the point I can’t eat anything processed including the whole list of trigger foods for migraines…am food deprived…I also have Celiac Disease. Some days I am afraid to touch food or trust even fresh produce. Am in need of a support system of people who understand…my family and friends have given up on me. Am becoming paranoid…watched “Food Inc.” documentary and am floored by what is in our food. HELP!

  • Sharon Alexander
    8 years ago

    I have recently been experiencing vertigo on the day following a bad headache stretch accompanied by low blood pressure and nausea. Sometimes it’s so bad, I have to hold onto something. I noticed that vertigo was listed among the side effects of the meds I’m taking, and figured it was a lingering after-effect. Maybe not!

  • Kerry Sue
    8 years ago

    I have hemiplegic migraine and have attacks about 9 days out of 10 and can have them several times in a day where I cycle from the aura to the headache and back again. I have intense vertigo problems and will be beginning vestibular therapy on Monday. I have auditory nerve damage as a result of my illness. Yes, grocery store isle, hallways in medical buildings, even a long sidewalk can be tremendously difficult to navigate. Loves to all who experience this. It is, for more, one of the most difficult symptoms to handle.

  • Janet Klarich
    8 years ago

    The same has been happening to me in the last year. Why the change? It’s very disconcerting.

  • Diana Lee
    8 years ago

    Lately I’ve been dealing with dizziness with my migraine attacks and I’ve never experienced that in my entire life. It’s been rather scary.

  • Georgia Slesinger
    8 years ago

    Ah, yes…I also have what the doctors call MAV(migraine-associated vertigo). Not fun at ALL:(

  • Wendy Lear
    8 years ago

    I also was diagnosed with MAV several years ago. I have trouble in grocery stores or department stores with long aisles where I can’t see the other end. I start getting off-balance as soon as I enter the store. It has really reduced the pleasure I used to have shopping at the malls. Hate this disease…

  • Angela Michelle Dixon
    8 years ago

    Yep, I have the same symptoms. Been having migraines since I was 11. Finally went back to the neurologist a few weeks ago and was given Percocets.

  • Amy Krebs Dunnigan
    8 years ago

    I have this same problem. I’ve had it for years. I’m dizzy all the time, when I get up to fast, or turn to fast, but more so when I have a headache from the weather, and even more so when I have a migraine.

  • Crystal Swarmer
    8 years ago

    I’ve often wondered if my vertigo and migraines are related. I’ve been having migraines for years but this vertigo feeling mess didn’t start until i came here (Md) from La.

  • Ashley Everhart
    8 years ago

    I get vertigo as well. Mine last several days or more. I hate it. Makes me feel out from the world and my mind will not be as sharp. If anyone has a treatment of mIgraine associated vertigo I am all ears!

  • Jimmie Kent
    8 years ago

    I HATE IT …….

  • Sarah Chandler
    8 years ago

    What a coincidence you mention the DC Metro escalator! I was just there a few days ago and had the identical experience…..the escalator at DuPont Circle was extremely frightening and disorienting for me. It was a terrible experience and it took me awhile to recover from it. I never used to think twice about situations like this, but nowadays I find myself having to compensate more and more.

  • Bilge Badty Kolosine
    8 years ago

    Thanks for this article. I am also experiencing vertigo episodes more and more often and only recently realized they may be attributed to my migraines, which have returned to my life with regularity. The more I learn, the more prepared I can be for what lays ahead.

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