Balance and Dizziness – One Person’s Story

Balance and Dizziness

Here’s another patient who wrote to us about her journey battling balance issues, dizziness, and vertigo….

“There are probably a million ways an individual arrives at a point where they are experiencing problems with balance or dizziness. There are also a host of physical issues that give rise to problems with this bodily function. There are even different types of balance and dizziness issues, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and I’ve experienced most of them, I think.

My goal in writing this is not to make a diagnosis regarding an individual’s condition, but to share my experience in the hope that perhaps a tip here or there may offer some hope for someone else. I know how difficult it is when the ground beneath our feet doesn’t feel solid anymore and I’ve personally experienced the wild, roller coaster rides that BPPV offers its sufferers.

How my Balance Problems Began

The beginning of my balance problems was actually my fault. Almost 10 years ago I received a diagnosis of significant neck issues. I was fairly young when diagnosed (forty-five), and still of the mindset that I was fairly invincible and that perhaps my neck problems weren’t that serious. I was also angry. Living with chronic pain (I had low back issues as well) has a tendency to make a person frequently impatient and cranky.

One morning I went out to my vehicle and the doors were completely covered with ice. I had planned to take my vehicle in for service and I was already a bit late. I allowed my anger and frustration at having to deal with chronic health issues to spill over into my actions. Although I knew I had neck problems, I didn’t know precisely how far I could go without causing further damage.

I repeatedly shoved my shoulder against the car door in the hopes I could dislodge the ice. I tried this repeatedly on ALL the doors in the hopes I could get one open and eventually I did. I remember waiting at the auto dealership, somewhat in tears, just hoping that my actions did not cause myself any injury. Later that evening, I had an occasion where I closed my eyes for just a bit and I remember feeling unsteady on my feet, but when I opened my eyes, the sensation had passed. Then when I woke up the next morning, I had problems with my balance and I began a self-imposed, very unpleasant and unsteady journey.

The Manifestations

My balance problems really showed up a few days later when I tried to drive to work. My eyes had great difficulty trying to process all the fast-moving traffic and the up and down movement that one experiences while driving. When I finally arrived at work and got out of the car, I could not walk a straight line. Eventually I received a diagnosis of whiplash and I was also prescribed Xanax. I am profoundly grateful for Xanax as without it, I think I would have been basically house-bound the first year after my injury. I still struggled with driving — it took me a year to get back on the freeway and drive at 70 mph, but eventually that ability did return.

Then about 14 months after my whiplash injury, I woke up, went to reach for the alarm and it was as if a washing machine agitator went off in my head. This experience seemed to just come out of the blue. Later on that day I tried to drive and my overall balance was so poor, that I cut my trip short and went home. The next morning I thought surely, I will not experience what I had the previous morning, but I did! Then I knew it was not just a fluke. I went on-line, researched my symptoms and determined I had probably experienced BPPV. BPPV is a typer of vertigo where the room feels like it’s spinning and typically lasts less than minute, and usually happens in bed. My doctor confirmed my suspicions and gave me some exercises, which thankfully, did help improve the BPPV symptoms. I continued to have periodic bouts of intense BPPV over the next few years which I managed with specific exercises.

I’ve had multiple types of balance symptoms over the years. Sometimes it would be so difficult to stand, I would try to grip the floor by curling my toes. I’ve had many times when my eyeballs were rolling uncontrollably around in my head during the early morning hours while sleeping. I’ve lost my balance when looking up at a high shelf and I have chronic ringing in one ear. Sometimes for a split-second, my balance just went completely out from underneath me and I was so thankful I was near a solid surface to grab on to.

Managing and Coping with Balance Issues

I did receive some physical therapy to learn some strategies on how to cope with balance issues. As I mentioned, the BPPV exercises were a godsend. I learned to avoid caffeine when my balance was particularly challenged. Caffeine affects the nervous system, which plays a vital role in the body’s balance mechanism. I also started taking a good quality B-vitamin complex supplement. The B-vitamin family plays an integral role to keep our nervous system functioning properly. I also found some relief with inositol and choline bitartrate supplements, both of which are related to B-vitamins. I learned what my limitations are and I try very hard not to put myself in situations that I know are very difficult for me like riding a bicycle or riding in a boat. Many times I rejected wearing high-heeled shoes in favor of shoes that I knew would provide firm footing.

It’s been almost 9 years now since my balance problems began and it’s been a long, tough road. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve experienced BPPV and as long as I stay within my limits, my balance problems are fairly manageable. Physical therapy, traction and some spinal manipulation by my physical therapist have made a difference. For the most part, I am back to coping only with my original neck and low back issues.

I hope that perhaps something mentioned in my story is helpful to someone. If nothing else, know that you are not alone if you are dealing with challenges stemming from dizziness or balance issues.”

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