MS and Spatial Orientation

Most of my life I've been a bit of a klutz - ok, if you ask my family they would say I'm more than a bit klutzy. I have often found myself tripping over lint on the carpet, and small puffs of wind are known to make me stagger. But until recently, most of my incidents have involved walking and attempting to stay upright.

My issues with MS and spatial orientation

It's not enough that MS is working overtime on my brain, tucked securely into my skull with the myelin munching going on -  I may also be battling MS on the outside of my skull. Now I find myself incurring a new form of self-inflicted danger and injury - the lack of spatial orientation and my head.

What is spacial orientation?

Spatial orientation describes how a pilot references their position in the air, how fast they are flying, how close they are to the ground, and whether they are right side up or upside down. Spatial orientation on the ground requires us to use our equilibrium/balance, proprioception -knowing where our body is in relation to the environment it is in through our senses spurred by the central nervous system, and visual clues – three things that often don’t come easily for those of us with Multiple Sclerosis.

Bumps and bruises

I have taken at least a half-dozen self-inflicted bruising hits to my head in recent months. One of these required a ride in the ambulance to the ER and stitches, and added together these injuries leave me wondering about my pairing of multiple sclerosis and spatial awareness.

Just this weekend I was on vacation with my grandchildren and the middle one needed to go to the restroom. Not being one to pass up the opportunity, and all of you with MS understand that thought, I volunteered to take her. I stepped into my own stall and pulled the door shut - not recognizing that the door would swing fully in both directions. You know those small metal hooks meant to hold a handbag or jacket? As I pulled the door closed it swung my way and if I were an inch or two taller I might have blinded myself. Fortunately, this was a blunt metal object and didn't impale my forehead and only left a sizable bruise but no holes– I pulled that door shut with such a force that had it been sharp there is no doubt I would have impaled my head and been featured on one of those television shows of people with x-rays with odd foreign objects in their body.

More injuries due to spatial issues

A few weeks back, I was taking a shower in the locker room after our weekly MS Aquatics program. I dropped my container of shampoo onto the floor and bent to pick it up – forgetting that I was facing the handles. As I went for the soap, I hit my forehead on the shower handles in the same spot as the above mentioned incident, this time hard enough with enough momentum that I briefly thought I might pass out. The mental image of having the same ambulance crew cart me out of the locker room kept me alert and conscious, while I grabbed my head and danced in circles from the pain. I literally saw stars. The bruise from the shower handle incident had just finally disappeared when I put the above-mentioned bathroom stall hook into my head.

Somewhere in that time frame, I saw stars when  I was unloading a package from the back of my Honda CRV, and in a hurry I reached up and pulled the hatch down with a lot of force. Unfortunately, it was also straight down onto my head.

These examples of my recent head injuries go on, and contain a lot of Three Stooges slapstick humor, that ultimately ends with bruising, ice packs, and increasing looks of concern from my family and friends. It has even been lovingly suggested I might take to wearing a helmet or at the very least I should cocoon myself in bubble wrap. My personal preference would be to wear a blow-up Sumo wrestler suit - I can’t imagine what injury might come next and it might be best to go for the total body protection.

The connection to MS

When I discuss this string of injuries with a friend who is a physician who also happens to have MS, she won’t let me take the easy way out and blame it on mere klutziness. No, she insists, it must be my MS at work causing problems with spatial orientation. The inability to sense where my feet are, is nothing new, but it is worrisome that I can’t keep track of my head.

Wishing you well,


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