Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Exercise for Chronic Dizziness

Scientists are trying to determine why some people have persistent unexplained dizziness. They are finding some association between psychiatric or neurologic conditions and dizziness. I think what's in common between the two are things that raise cortisol levels. Here's the story.

The association between cortisol and psychiatric conditions is somewhat established. But how I am getting to an association between cortisol and dizziness?

Cortisol and Trigger Points

Well, cortisol can be created by muscular trigger points. And proponents of trigger point massage therapy claim that some dizziness may be caused by trigger points in the neck muscles. The idea is that the brain uses information from muscles of the neck, along with information from the eyes and ears, to judge position. So a trigger point in one muscle makes it more tense and the signals its sends are off a bit.

You get dizzy when the different signals used by the brain to judge position conflict. So if you have fluid in your ear, the hairs don't react to motion as quickly, and you get dizzy. I've experienced this problem when I had an ear infection.

Some people get dizzy when they're in the car but looking at something that isn't moving. The signals conflict and they get dizzy. Closing the eyes can actually help by removing the conflicting signal.

So what can you do to determine if trigger points in neck muscles are causing your dizziness? Should you learn how to massage your trigger points or try to find a massage therapist? You could, but is there something easier?

Exercising Your Sarcomeres

You can do exercises to resolve a trigger point. Trigger points are caused by the sticking of tiny structures in the muscles called sarcomeres. The collective action of these sarcomeres IS the force your muscle exerts. This action also pumps blood through the sarcomeres themselves, bringing nutrients and carrying away waste products.

In a trigger point, sarcomeres get stuck in their "on" position. Blood can't flow normally.

But I have found that doing gentle, high-repetition exercises can restore that blood flow and resolve a trigger point. And it seems that such exercise works better than massage, which can't work across the entire length of a muscle at once.

For the neck, I did about thirty repetitions twisting the neck from one side to another (gently!). Then do the same for bending the neck forward and backward. Then bending the neck from left to right.

IMPORTANT: Do contract and stretch completely, but don't contract or stretch hard. Hold contractions for a few seconds. But keep it gentle. You aren't trying to build muscle, but get the blood pumping. The range of motion is also unimportant; just do what you can easily do.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. Did you have chronic dizziness before you started doing these exercises? Did it solve the problem. I have chronic dizziness and would be curious to know if it worked for you.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Al Brown said...

I got dizzy when I would get these ear infections and the eustachian tube would swell shut.

But this problem didn't start until a couple of years after I had a lot of muscular tightness.

And the periodic dizziness from these infections has gone away now that the muscular problems have been dealt with.

So if you have a lot of muscular stiffness and also have the same sort of dizziness I had, you may want to do something about the muscles.

But chronic dizziness can be caused by a number of different things and my experience alone is just anecdotal.

3:31 PM  
Blogger michael said...

I will try it for my dizziness. So 30 Reps - for each exercise? Do you only do these exercises once a day? Thanks

9:13 AM  
Blogger Al Brown said...

Michael, I've since modified my view on this. I recommend people do Qi Gong or Tai Chi to get muscles to relax. These practices have been around for a long time, so there is a lot more information about them, more than a random blogger can share.

Here's some discussion about it: http://blog.stretchwithme.com/2007/02/treating-trigger-points-with-exercise.html

Best of luck to you.

4:01 PM  
Blogger La Raine said...

Hi Al,
Do you still get dizziness? I've had issues with dizziness for the past 18 months, got an MRI of brain and neck and my neck came back reportedly too straight with lack of normal curve caused by muscle spasming. I went to a chiropractor from Feb 2012 through June 2012 and the dizziness and neck pain subsided drastically! Since I was better, I stopped going to the chiropractor and about 3 months later, started feeling the dizziness again in Oct 2012. It has been here since and no doctor (except for 1) seems to think my neck could play such a big role in it...have you tried massage therapy? I noticed you posted about Tai Chi- how long did you do it before you saw results? Thank you so much... I've also started doing yoga as some people say neck pain/dizziness can be caused from stress.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Al Brown said...

Neck issues definitely are involved. But probably not the ultimate source of the tension. Everybody is different. I found that resolving tense latissimus dorsi muscles helped resolve stiff neck muscles. Its all that sitting that does it.

I incorporated twisting cable movements to activate these and did lots of massage myself. You have to restore circulation to the tight muscles but also manipulate the tight muscle sheaths that surround them.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Al Brown said...

No, no longer have the dizziness.

8:35 PM  

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