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Ester Marsh column: Have you experienced vertigo?

I have heard friends talking about bouts of vertigo, but just last week I personally experienced a severe case of it. In the past few months I have had some spinning sensations that lasted a few hours, but after I exercised it actually went away. About a week ago, I woke up in the night and the room was was spinning. I fell back asleep, but when I woke up, I got out of bed and I swayed so much I almost fell. What in the world? I stood there, started sweating and became very nauseated. I managed to go feed my animals, and when I got back I told my husband about it. Needless to say, that day I was down for the count. Of course, I did some research and did some exercises to help the vertigo. Since last Sunday, it has not completely gone, but each day is a bit better and I barely have any nausea.

So what is vertigo? From the dictionary: a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness.

As always, please have your doctor properly diagnose you. Causes of vertigo can be but are not limited to:

  • Loosening of tiny crystals in your inner ear or also called BPPV — benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
  • Meniere’s disease — caused by a buildup of pressure an fluid in inner ear
  • Migraine headaches
  • Viral or bacterial infection in the ear
  • Tinnitus — ringing in the ears

Symptoms can be:

  • Spinning
  • Tilting
  • Swaying
  • Unbalanced
  • Pulled to one direction
  • Nauseated
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Ringing in ears

Again, you should have your doctor diagnose you first and they might prescribe vestibular rehabilitation through physical therapy for the vestibular system. The vestibular system sends signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity.

If you have dealt with vertigo or know someone you might have heard of the Epley maneuver. It’s a technique you can do at home that can treat symptoms of BPPV.

• Step one: Sit on the bed and turn head to the side affected. To find out which side is affected, lie on back with head reclined and turn to one side for 30 seconds. The side where the room spins is the side affected. Mine is the left, so I will start from the left. If your right is affected, do the opposite. Start by turning head to left about 45 degrees for 30 seconds.

• Step two: Quickly lie on your back where your shoulders are on a pillow so the head is reclined. Keep your head turned to the left for 30 seconds.

• Step three: Turn head toward the right for 30 seconds.

Step four: Turn your body towards that side (right) and lie there for 30 seconds. Sit up from the right side.

You can do these three times per day. What I have noticed with my bout of vertigo, after initially not being able to move or eat much, for that day, exercising makes me feel better. Safety is always first priority, so if you have dizzy spells your chance of falls increases. So know where your limits are and before you do anything, get a proper diagnosis from your doctor first!

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley Family YMCA.

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