Dizziness and Swelling

Dizziness/Fainting

After a spinal cord injury, the blood pressure may be different. Sometimes blood pressure may be lower or drop quickly which can cause dizzy spells.

This happens most often when you sit up too fast. It can also happen when getting up for the first time after being in bed for a few days.

People with high neck (cervical) injuries have the most problems with fainting and dizziness.

When dizzy spells happen you should:

Lay down flat and keep the feet up if you are able to walk

Have someone slowly lean your wheelchair backwards to lower your head and raise your feet if you are in a wheelchair/unable to walk

Dizzy spells can be prevented by doing the following:

Sit up slowly, prop your body on some pillows for about 15 minutes before actually getting up

Wear TED hose if your doctor has ordered them

Wear an abdominal binder if your doctor has ordered one

Do not move the body too fast when doing weight shifts because it may make dizziness worse

Drink 1 or 2 glasses of fluids prior to getting up

Remember to get out of bed slowly!

Swelling

Sometimes swelling happens because of loss of movement/muscle tone and decreased blood flow from the legs. Swelling can also happen if there is a blood clot. The blood clot may be called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). See the DVT Lesson in this Module for more information on this topic.

Swelling can also be caused by extra calcium forming around a joint. When this type of swelling happens, it is called heterotopic ossification (H.O.). (See the H.O. Lesson in this Module for information on this topic). A blood clot or calcium problem should be seen by the doctor right away.

A blood clot is a medical emergency. Get help immediately.

If swelling is present, you may try the following:

This information applies to swelling not caused by a blood clot...if you suspect a blood clot, call your doctor immediately.

When in bed, raise your feet and legs on 2-4 pillows. Be sure to pad and position yourself to prevent skin problems.

When out of bed, be sure to raise your legs for 30 minutes several times a day. This can be done by raising the footrest on the wheelchair. Be sure to pad and position yourself to prevent skin problems.

Wear TED hose of your doctor has ordered them.

Call the doctor quickly if:

Swelling does not go away after being in bed all day

The swollen area becomes red, warm and/or painful

The swelling is in one leg or foot only.