Friday, July 01, 2011

Weird MS symptoms: cognitive falling

Watching Patti as she flails her arms, legs jerk and her wheelchair shutters from all the action I wonder if Patti is demon wrestling or I’m missing an earthquake.

Only seconds in duration and followed with an exclamation (some printable, some not), I steady her and ask – “you think you’re falling again, don’t you?”

Decades ago when Patti could still walk this weird MS symptom – cognitive falling (I THINK I’m falling therefore I WILL fall) - occurred more frequently and resulted in random falls from a standing position.

Vertigo? Hypnic Jerk? Inner Ear? Nystagmus? Myoclonic Jerk? Ataxia? Medication? All and more were considered, re-considered and dismissed.  Intermittent symptoms rarely ever fit all the criteria of diagnostic ‘billing’ codes.

I have never observed a pattern to any triggering activities neither then nor now except ‘intermittent and unexplained’. Frankly with the gap of decades unless you were me, you would not even notice the similarities.

Now in a wheelchair Patti is not at actual risk of falling from a standing position, though awareness is warranted. Even such a brief episode during assisted transfer or eating could certainly have at risk consequences.

And, of course, never does a weird MS symptom actually occur during a visit to a neurologist - well except just once decades ago when Patti could still stand.

Patti’s neurologist had just finished poopahing Patti’s recounting of cognitive falling. He was quite adamant that the human body does not fall because it “thinks it is going to fall”.

As he put Patti through her neurological exam (if you have never observed one, it borders on human pet tricks), Patti announced “It’s happening! I’m going to fall!” Her neuro calmly and professionally reassured her “No! You are not! Your legs are fine. There is no …” - Patti grabbed him for support and they both ended up on the floor.  

After I helped them both up, we at least learned that when a ‘weird MS symptom’ lands on top of a neurologist it becomes an “observed” unexplained intermittent symptom.  

Fortunately decades later, cognitive falling while weirder is at least safer.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 
web site:  


  1. It is when symptoms like this arise that one can appreciate just how complex and remarkable is the mechanism that governs our ordinary functioning, since after all this sort of thing rarely happens unless the system is damaged.


    PS I could only comment as Anonymous. My June 26 poem explains how this can be corrected.

    Stumped at commenting
    on some of my treasured blogs,
    I offer this cure.

    Go to your dashboard,
    hit settings and then comments,
    comment form placement.

    Hit pop-up window.
    Presto change-o we can come
    and leave you comments.

  2. LOL with the neurologist "you aren't going to fall" to suddenly finding himself on the floor. It goes to prove they really don't know everything about our bodies or conditions. I'm glad Patti could demonstrate so effectively her sensation of thinking she is going to fall. I hadn't heard of this phenomonen. Interesting!

    side note to the lady who left the comment above, just in case she comes back to read follow up comments. She should also check when she signs into Blogger and make sure the box that says "keep me signed in" is unchecked. Often that helps solve problems if comments can't be left.

    To you Patrick and Patti, I hope you have a safe and happy Fourth of July!


  3. I always hate that about Dr. If they don't see, it didn't happen. Glad Patty proved him wrong.

  4. Bwa-ha-ha! I'm not laughing at Patti's proprioceptive falling experience or the fact that she fell with the doc. However, I'd pay money to see a few of the neurologists I've encountered writhing around on the floor, and hopefully with some of their instruments having landed in places of...oh, I'd better stop this imaginary scene right here.

    Sorry that Patti encounters this. I've had it on a much smaller scale. Is quite scary to all of a sudden be convinced that you're falling and feel as though you must grasp at something to stop it.


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