Vestibular problems, including concussions and coping

I’ve included a link to an ESPN video clip about a baseball player who is recovering from a concussion.  I like this clip because it highlights many of the problems and challenges facing people recovering from vestibular disorders.

1) Depression and difficulty coping.  Dizziness, headaches and an inability to do normal activities will take a serious toll on a person with a vestibular problem.  Moving around the world when you are dizzy or easily disoriented is very hard and fatiguing.  People who are used to hopping in their car to pick up a few things at the grocery store, find limitations to simple tasks very hard to deal with.  Depression and anxiety are very common when dealing with dizziness, vertigo and imbalance issues.  Make sure to discuss these with your health care providers as well.

2) Loss of identity. Whether you are a professional baseball player who is out of the game for an indefinite period of time or a parent who can’t watch your kids’ soccer games without getting dizzy, vestibular problems can challenge your sense of identity.  Many people feel that they can “just push through it.” Often this strategy is impossible, if not counterproductive to recovery.  Using a computer for more than 15 min can be a challenge for someone with a vestibular problem.  How many people need to work at a computer for hours a day to make a living?

3) The video clip mentions the idea that it would be better to have crutches or a cast.  I have heard this from many patients over the years.  Vestibular problems are not obvious to anyone, but a broken foot is. It is hard to have an illness people can’t see or don’t know anything about.  That’s why it is important to educate yourself, your family and your friends about what is happening to you.  The recovery process for vestibular problems can be short or long, simple or complex, but learn as much as you can.  Your health care providers should be a great resource for you and your family.

4) Recovery can and does happen. Small steps add up to a lot–I say that over and over again to my patients.  Recovery from vestibular problems can take time, but it does happen.  You can return to the activities you love.

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Balance Awareness Month

September is the 15th Annual Balance Awareness Month sponsored by the Vestibular Disorders Association.  To celebrate and honor the work that VEDA does, Cascade Dizziness and Balance PT is offering FREE balance screens for the month of September.

No referral is required and anyone is welcome. There is no charge and no obligation to do anything except show up and have your balance tested.  I will use research-validated balance tests.  At the end of the testing, we will discuss your results.

The goal is to provide you with important information about how your balance system is functioning so that you can work to improve your weak spots before a fall happens.

To schedule, call 206-925-3762 or click on the Schedule Appointment link and select Balance Screen for your service.

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Exercise and osteoarthritis

So arthritis is not topic that is specifically related to dizziness and balance disorders, but joint pain, stiffness and deconditioning all impact your balance.  The link below highlights how important exercise is, no matter what.

To quickly summarize: arthritis symptoms improve with exercise and people with arthritis aren’t getting enough exercise.  This is definitely setting a lot of people up to have balance problems in the future.  Balance is a complex task requiring multiple systems in the body to be functioning well.  When people don’t exercise, their muscle strength, flexibility and responsiveness start to decline.  We need our muscles to be strong, flexible and responsive to keep us balanced, however.  Additionally, most forms of exercise have some element of balance in them.  You need to balance on a bike, even a stationary one.  And, swimming requires a horizontal balance response to keep you floating.

Of course, people with arthritis need to choose the right form of exercise.  People with osteoarthritis in their knees aren’t good candidates for long distance running, but could definitely work on swimming, biking or yoga.

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Vertigo and concussions

Concussions and vertigo can go hand-in-hand. Here is an interesting link about an NHL player who had his season cut short by persistent vertigo. Look for more on concussions in future posts.

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