Tag Archive | Vertigo

I thought I invented it….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

That’s how things go folks. You think you’re particularly clever and have come up with a unique and brilliant idea that no one else has ever thought of before — and you learn it’s been used for centuries. Bummer!

For years I’ve seen myself through scary, painful or difficult times by singing — aloud. The older the song, the better because then I have to work harder at remembering the words. I’ve fought my way out of my apartment step-by-agonizing-step after devastating dizziness sieges by singing. At times I’d make it as far as the elevator, but later might make it as far as the front entrance. Sometimes guys, that can be a big accomplishment, especially for a dizzy dame.

I’ve survived driving my car home (right turns only) while experiencing severe

old lady nervous in car

terrified driving when vertigo begins

vertigo by singing encouragement to myself. Want the words? (Don’t worry about copyright, use them anytime.) ‘You’re fine because you’re fine, because you’re fine, because you’re fine….’ (Use any tune you like, it doesn’t matter, no one’s judging.) It obviously worked for me — I’m still alive!

After my hip surgery last year, while five fussing nurses gathered round my bed trying to figure out how to extricate the stubborn last staple (out of 18) which had somehow formed a ring in my flesh, I sang an old kids’ song as they dug in. When they finally succeeded, they gleefully gave each other high-fives and danced about. Were they just pleased with themselves for solving the problem, or delighted with the quality of my (ahem) beautiful voice? I never asked…..

I’ve many stories I could tell you about times when my singing saved the day for me, but I won’t bore you with all the grizzly details. Suffice it to say, it has worked.

lady with earphones

Really, it works

Why do I risk making a fool of myself in front of others who are sometimes strangers? Because it works. It seems my brain, unable to double-task well, has to concentrate on the (preferably) old song I don’t remember too well. I actually believed I was the one who figured this out all by myself — that nobody else ever thought about it before. Ha.

 

320px-Louis_Gallait_-_Power_of_Music_-_

Music Therapy by Louis Gallait, Belgian artist, (1810-87)

 

Recently CBC Radio had a program about Music Therapy. I had to find out more so called on Mrs. Google. Waddaya know? It’s been used for years for relaxation, reminiscence for the elderly, physical rehab for stroke victims, plus more other physical and mental conditions than I have the space to list here. Interesting, no?

Go ahead. Give it a try. Why not?

 

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To Family/Friends of Those with Balance and Dizziness (vestibular) Disorders

Muriel from BlogSince Dr. Graham Bryce and I started the B C Balance & Dizziness Disorders Society (BADD) 15 years ago, I’ve talked with hundreds and hundreds of members dealing with vestibular disorders. When our first Board met around my kitchen table, we discussed a name for our fledgling support group. I noted that “Balance and Dizziness Disorders” which was chosen, would probably have the acronym BADD, which might not look good. The response? “Well, it IS bad.” So “BADD” we became.

Balance and Dizziness Disorders ARE bad

Balance and Dizziness Disorders ARE bad

Through the years, members complain that nobody gets it. Not only do family and friends not understand how debilitating these conditions are, too many medical practitioners have no idea how difficult it is, at times, to function at all. These disorders are unpleasant enough to live with, but the lack of empathy from those around us can be devastating. With a broken arm, you sport a cast; if you are blind, you use a white cane; but stagger in the street (As I have from time to time) and people will look askance, consider you to be drunk and refuse to help you even if you request it. And, yes, that has happened to me!

Image used on BADD's brochure. We are always aware of trying to stay upright

Image used on BADD’s brochure. We are always aware of trying to stay upright

Not only do we deal with a scary, unstable world which moves in ways others don’t experience, with a balance system others take for granted which won’t work properly for us, but also the anxiety and fear of knowing that at any moment, often without warning, everything may begin to spin. When that happens, panic ensues, we find it impossible to keep our bodies upright. The feeling is terrifying.

I have desperately clung to street poles, mailboxes, garbage cans and strangers when suddenly hit by one of these episodes. I have courageously fought my way out of my apartment in stages after sieges. I’ve had to stop my car enroute to work in busy Los Angeles traffic, my heart pounding while my whole body trembled with fear. Not pleasant……

At any time, things can begin to spin

At any time, things can begin to spin

I have arthritis. It hurts. Unfortunately, after so many falls, a knee replacement didn’t work miracles. I deal with pain every day. I have, however, repeatedly said I can cope with the pain — as long as I’m not dizzy. Any day in which I don’t experience dizziness is a terrific day!

A father of a member I spoke with insisted his son was not being diligent. He missed a business appointment when he was experiencing an episode. (The son’s attacks were so violent, he was unable to get up from the floor and would have to be taken to hospital by ambulance.)

Keep Going? I can't even get up!

Keep Going? I can’t even get up!

“I’ve had a heart attack. I’ve had cancer,” the father insisted, “You just keep going.”

When I tried to explain that I, myself, ordinarily very reliable, self-sufficient and hard-working, was unable to “just keep going” even though I was not financially ready to retire. He didn’t hear or understand.

“He had a friend fill in for him,” the dad continued, “Maybe his client will like his friend better and he’ll lose the client. You just have to……”

I failed to reach him. What can I say when members tell me their family or even their doctors don’t take their conditions seriously. Too many family doctors seem to know nothing about vestibular disorders. At times I despair.

Yes, we make dates and appointments we sometimes can’t keep. I was to be interviewed on television for my job when I became so dizzy on my way to work, I had to call in to say I had no choice but to take a cab home. They were not pleased. I was the only one working there comfortable with that kind of assignment. The cab driver, seeing how ill I was (did he think I was already drunk at 8 a.m.?) didn’t offer me any change. He took much more money from me than he should have. I was too sick to argue — but I still resent it.

I often feel like this, but I'm sure he's better at it than I am

I often feel like this, but I’m sure he’s better at it than I am

One of the most common causes of dizziness is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), often easily treated by a manoeuvre. Many of us with other vestibular disorders end up with BPPV as well. Sometimes a manoeuvre will work. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it makes you feel even worse. There are no easy, simple answers.

I plead with family and friends of people who experience balance and dizziness disorders to try to understand and forgive when we’ve made promises we can’t keep or a date we have to cancel.

I've gotta get out of here! Too many colours! Too many lights!

I’ve gotta get out of here! Too many colours! Too many lights!

We may feel a desperate need to immediately escape from a shopping centre because the bright colors are making things impossible. We’ll suddenly grab your arm to hang on to because the world has decided to play nasty tricks on us. We’ll ask you to walk farther to avoid walking on the grass because if there is a slight indentation hidden by it we may fall. It may seem unreasonable to you, but I am familiar with it all.

Yes, we do love you. Yes, we do want to see you. And, yes, please do not misread our distress — it has nothing to do with you and it is not a rejection of you. We need you in our lives even more than other people do.

For information about BADD, see http://www.balanceanddizziness.org

 

Coping Strategies and Learning to Live with Dizziness

Since I’m experiencing dizziness right now and it is debilitating, I thought I could, at least, share this worthwhile information with those of you who may find it helpful. It is a summary of a presentation made by physiotherapist Nicole Acerra, PhD. at a meeting of the BC Balance And Dizziness Disorders Society (BADD) at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, on November 21, 2013.

Coping Strategies and Learning to Live with Dizziness

by Joyce Pinsker

No matter how long you’ve been living with dizziness, you can always learn more strategies to improve your quality of life. If the job of rehab is to maximize your energy and a longer-term maintenance program helps you keep that energy, the job of coping strategies is to help you use your energy to avoid or deal with symptoms. Collect tips from as many sources as you can; talk with others, including those with dizziness problems, therapists and researchers, and search the Internet. You will find there are many small changes you can make in your life that have a big impact.

It can take months or even years to determine a diagnosis and sometimes there is no clear answer. This can be a real source of frustration and stress. Simply not knowing what’s going on can make your dizziness feel worse. It is normal for stress to make this kind of impact. Unconfirmed medical diagnosis ranks at the top of the stress scale, right along with death of a loved one or getting fired.

Most people go through a period of active rehabilitation after diagnosis. This might involve gradually reintroducing activities on your own or formal rehabilitation with healthcare professionals. To maintain and improve the level of function and fitness you’ve achieved through rehab, make an exercise program part of your regular routine. Tailor it to your needs and lifestyle, including cardiovascular exercise; ten years of research has shown that cardiovascular activity is one of the top keys to recovery. Many people’s problems completely resolve after rehab while others continue to live with dizziness and can be helped by doing long-term rehab at home.

As much of the vestibular apparatus lies within the inner ear, no lab tests can be done to provide a precise label for what is wrong. Clinical dizziness tests, however, will show what is not working and quantify your deficits. In terms of moving forward with your life, identifying your deficits is every bit as helpful as getting a label for what is wrong.

When you know the source of your symptoms, and have rehabbed as much as possible, at some point you need to learn to live with the remaining symptoms. As we have a limited amount of energy each day, it is very important to use it strategically. Compile a list of what predictably makes your symptoms worse and what relieves them. This will give you a sense of your triggers. Then ask yourself what it is you want to do, what it is you’re struggling with, and what your goals are. Make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to you, and given a timeline).

Coping strategies vary widely and include avoiding aggravating factors, learning to prevent your symptoms or triggers from happening, learning how to prioritize and organize your day or week, eating well, keeping hydrated, maintaining fitness, avoiding safety pitfalls, and improving your sleep.

Good sleep hygiene includes falling asleep well, being able to go back to sleep well if you wake up during the night, and feeling rested when you wake up in the morning. Research shows that a disturbed sleep impairs your ability to remember things. If your dizziness symptoms feel worse when you don’t sleep well, you’ll have a bad day, and that can become cyclical. Sleep tips include avoiding evening naps as well as television viewing just before bedtime.

If you need to get up frequently at night to use the bathroom, work with your physician. Try pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises. Learn strategies to fall back to sleep quickly. For example: don’t look at the clock; keep the room at the right temperature; orient your bed for quick and easy access to the toilet; and wear uncomplicated nightclothes.

If your symptoms are worse in the dark, use a nightlight and be mindful when turning lights off as you walk to your bedroom. Keep spaces clear so you don’t bump into or trip over things in the dark. Slide your finger along the wall for extra proprioception.

Help the balance receptors in your feet by wearing the right type of footwear. Firm soles make you feel less disconnected from the ground and are usually a better choice than soft soles.

On a bus, try to sit near the front or where you can see outside. In a car, avoid the back seat. On a plane, planning ahead is often a major part of success. Pack well ahead and get a good sleep the night before. Schedule daytime flights if possible and keep well hydrated. Sit near a window and look outside during take-off and landing. When you can both see and feel the movement, your vestibular and visual systems will be more likely to agree with each other.

Proprioception can be improved through activities including a wide variety of balance exercises, rubbing your feet, or stretching tight calf muscles. Pay attention to the joints that cause you problems. Try Tai Chi, balance, or yoga classes to add a bit of fun. Many community centres offer adapted yoga and fall-proof programs. You may be eligible for a research study or fall prevention program, such as that offered by the VGH Fall Prevention Clinic. www.fallsclinic.com.

Reprinted with permission from the BC Balance And Dizziness Disorders Society’s newsletter “The Balance Sheet”. Find BADD’s website at www.balanceanddizziness.org

The Magical Maneuver

June 17, 2012

The Magic Maneuver

Last night I gave in. I did an Epley maneuver on myself. I hate doing it. It makes me feel so dizzy and ill during the process, and then nauseated for a time afterwards. But, I’m much better for it today. Whew!

For many years I’ve dealt with a vestibular disorder, which causes bouts of dizziness and problems with my balance. Often, an Epley maneuver can help dissipate the dizziness when it occurs, depending on what is causing it. Since the Epley is non-invasive and can’t hurt, it is worth a try, but I tend to stall because, in my case, it temporarily feels so awful. I’m a coward. I keep hoping the spinning will pass on its own. It usually doesn’t and I usually end up giving in. This week, it didn’t go away, so……

I didn’t do the Epley until I went to bed, so I wouldn’t have to do anything afterwards except concentrate on feeling miserable and sorry for myself. When I awoke this morning, however, and turned over to get out of bed, the room didn’t twirl. It worked! I’m so glad, because my son, his wife, and their little one are coming to visit and I don’t want to be feeling unwell while they are here.

The Epley maneuver, named for the doctor who discovered it, is believed to move particles in the semicircular canal of the inner ear out of the area where they are creating havoc. The condition it works so well for is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, (BPPV) and is the most common cause of dizziness. It is more likely to happen to people like me, who already have another vestibular condition.

One of the ways you can identify BPPV is if the dizziness occurs mostly when you move your head, like up or down, or roll over in bed. Physiotherapists who deal with vestibular disorders know how to perform the Epley, and most physicians today are familiar with the maneuver. I DON’T RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO IT YOURSELF. PLEASE CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN. I was carefully coached by my own wonderful physiotherapist, who did it on me so many times, she thought I could finally manage it by myself.

For more information about vestibular disorders, go to the B.C. Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society’s website: www.balanceanddizziness.org