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Feel Dizziness When Standing Up? Here’s Why

Feeling sudden dizziness when standing up? Learn more about the possible causes, when you should worry, and what to do about it.

Woman holds her head while feeling dizzy.

Occasionally feeling dizziness when standing up abruptly has probably happened to you. It’s called orthostatic hypotension and happens when you move from lying down or sitting to standing because your blood pressure drops.

If you’re wondering why you’re experiencing these episodes, read on to learn more about the causes and certain health conditions that could cause it.

What Causes Dizziness When Standing Up 

When you stand up from a seated or lying position suddenly, gravity causes blood to rush to your feet. Your blood pressure suddenly drops, causing temporary dizziness or light-headedness. The situation usually resolves immediately.

You should be concerned if your symptoms are more severe and frequent. Fainting and falling from dizziness could result in concussions and even bone fractures. Fluctuations in blood pressure also increase your risk of shock or organ failure, and even stroke.

The following are some underlying reasons that could be behind frequent episodes of orthostatic hypotension. 

Autonomic dysfunction

Woman is holding her forehead with two hands, experiencing postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) symptoms.
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), like orthostatic dysfunction, is a symptom of autonomic dysfunction.

Blood pressure regulation is part of the body’s autonomic system. In a healthy body, blood pressure normalises without us having to think about it. Orthostatic hypotension can be a symptom of autonomic dysfunction. Diseases that cause autonomic dysfunction include type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, and multiple system atrophy.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a rarer condition related to autonomic dysfunction. It also involves dizziness when standing up, followed by a sudden increase in heartbeat rate.

Medication 

Medication for high blood pressure, like vasodilators and alpha-blockers, sometimes over-corrects and lowers blood pressure too much. Diuretics can cause excessive water discharge, resulting in hypotension. Some psychiatric medications can also lower blood pressure. 

Dehydration 

Blood is mostly made of water, and when you’re dehydrated, your blood volume drops, leading to hypotension. One of the most immediate symptoms of dehydration is feeling dizzy when rising from a seated or lying position. 

Anaemia 

Low levels of haemoglobin in anaemia result in less oxygen reaching the brain, causing low blood pressure. Dizziness upon standing up is a common symptom of this condition. 

Heart or lung problems 

Heart conditions like arrhythmias or heart valve disease impair the heart’s ability to pump blood adequately. Lungs with compromised function can affect oxygen levels in the blood. Both of these issues can cause hypotension. 

Dizziness When Standing Up as Understood by TCM 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chronic orthostatic hypotension can be traced back to two common syndromes. “Qi (vital life force) and blood that flow smoothly to support the head and face support a change in body position, especially from a lower to a higher position. A lack of qi and blood results in dizziness and blurred vision,” explains TCM physician Ho Li Ying.

“Meanwhile, Phlegm-Dampness can easily obstruct the overall flow of qi and blood. Even with sufficient qi and blood, these substances won’t be able to support all organs in the body if Phlegm-Dampness is severe. Therefore, when there is a change in body position, dizziness resembling Qi Blood Deficiency will occur,” she further elaborates.

Addressing and Preventing Dizziness When Standing Up 

To prevent frequent episodes of orthostatic hypotension: 

  • Get up from sitting or lying down slowly.  
  • Instead of sleeping flat on your back, keep your head elevated.  
  • Drink some water when you get up in the morning when blood pressure is typically lowest.  
  • Wear compression garments and do isometric leg exercises that help keep blood from pooling at your feet when you stand up. 
  • Talk to your doctor about changing the medication that’s causing your dizziness. 
  • Eat smaller meals and less refined carbohydrates. Digestion of large high-carbohydrate meals diverts blood from other parts of your body. 

Herbal medicine

Dried Chinese herbs used in the Eight Treasures soup laid out on bamboo placemat.
Ba Zhen Tang, or Eight Treasures soup, helps replenish qi and blood to treat orthostatic hypotension.

Fortunately, TCM remedies also target the root of what may be causing chronic low blood pressure. 

In 2016, researchers in Chongqing, China, found Ba Zhen Tang or Eight Treasures soup (八珍汤) to be effective in enhancing the formation of cellular components of blood, replenishing qi and blood.

Other herbs that help include:  

  • Codonopsis and red date tea (dang shen hong zhao cha, 党参红枣茶) 
  • American ginseng (hua qi shen, 花旗参) 
  • Longan fruit (gui yuan, 桂圆)  

Strengthen your Spleen and stomach to help with qi-blood insufficiency

A 2020 review in Frontiers of Endocrinology confirmed that Chinese yam (huai shan, 淮山) is effective in managing type 2 diabetes. This nutritious tuber helps reduce typical diabetic symptoms like dizziness.

Other herbs that strengthen the Spleen and stomach include: 

  • Roasted rice tea (zhi mi cha, 製米茶) 
  • Millet porridge (xiao mi zhou, 小米粥) 
  • Four Herbs (si shen, 四神) soup or powder  

Relieve Phlegm-Dampness

A 2020 review in Food in Nutrition confirmed that sun-dried mandarin orange peel (chen pi, 陈皮) is effective in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Improving Lung health and capacity helps prevent hypotension by ensuring sufficient oxygen levels. 

Other herbs that relieve Phlegm-Dampness are: 

  • Roasted rice tea (zhi mi cha, 製米茶) 
  • Amomum (sha ren, 砂仁)  
  • Dampness-removing tea (qu shi cha, 祛湿茶)  
  • Poria mushroom (fu ling, 茯苓) 
  • Atractylodes macrocephala (bai zhu, 白术) 
  • Ginger (sheng jiang, 生姜) 

Acupuncture 

A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Pacing, Arrhythmias and Cardiac Electrophysiology involving 30 participants found that electroacupuncture improved orthostatic tolerance.

Some acupoints suitable to treat and prevent this condition include: 

  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里)  
  • Feng long (ST40, 丰隆) 
  • Nei guan (PC6, 内关)  
  • Guan yuan (CVRN4, 关元)  

Monitor how often you feel dizziness when standing up. We often hear of high blood pressure being a health concern as we enter midlife, but symptomatic low blood pressure, including orthostatic hypotension, can also indicate serious problems. Remember to consult a qualified TCM practitioner before trying any of the above herbal formulations.

References

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020. Dizzy spells when you stand up: When should you worry? [online] Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/dizzy-spells-when-you-stand-up-when-should-you-worry> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Low Blood Pressure (Orthostatic Hypotension). [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9385-low-blood-pressure-orthostatic-hypotension> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  3. Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia. Anaemia. [online] Available at: <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/anaemia – symptoms-of-anaemia> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  4. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension). [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21156-low-blood-pressure-hypotension> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  5. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Autonomic Dysfunction. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23555-autonomic-dysfunction> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  6. Stanford Medicine. 2017. Too high: Side effects hamper many blood pressure medications. [online] Available at: <https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2017/10/19/too-high-side-effects-hamper-many-blood-pressure-medications/> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  7. China Medical University Hospital. 2022. Orthostatic Hypotension 姿態性低血壓(英文). [online] Available at: <https://www.cmuh.org.tw/HealthEdus/Detail_EN?no=5911> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  8. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2016. Effects and mechanisms of Bazhen decoction, Siwu decoction, and Sijunzi decoction on 5-fluorouracil-induced anemia in mice. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627216300668> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  9. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2020. Additional Benefit of Chinese Medicine Formulae Including Dioscoreae rhizome (Shanyao) for Diabetes Mellitus: Current State of Evidence. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7685178/> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  10. Food and Nutrition Research. 2021. The mechanism and candidate compounds of aged citrus peel (chenpi) preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and its progression to lung cancer. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8254466/> [Accessed 24 October 2022]
  11. European Journal of Pacing, Arrhythmias and Cardiac Electrophysiology. 2013. Electroacupuncture improves orthostatic tolerance in healthy individuals via improving cardiac function and activating the sympathetic system. [online] Available at: <https://academic.oup.com/europace/article/15/1/127/528771> [Accessed 24 October 2022]

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