Improving Dizziness with Exercise
October 6th, 2015 by mariska
If a client comes to you and says the word “dizzy,” that should be your cue that there is something amiss with either the vestibular system or the nerve pathways that send its information to or from the brain.
The vestibular system is one of the three neurological keepers of balance (the other two being vision and proprioception).
To understand working with vestibular disorders, you first need to understand how the vestibular system works. The vestibular complex is located in your inner ear, and it’s made up of the otolith organs (utricle and saccule) and the semicircular canals. Sense receptors located within them tell your brain if you are moving, how fast, and in which direction. When something goes wrong, you will feel dizzy, like you are on a rocking boat. You might even get sick to your stomach.
For serious vestibular disorders, you need to work with a physical therapist or Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor who specializes in the vestibular system. But for mild vestibular weakness, you can see great improvements, just by adding head turns to your exercise.
When you move your head, you literally “shake up” the vestibular system. And if you’re prone to getting dizzy, this actually desensitizes you to that sensation, ultimately making the dizziness lessen and your balance improve. In the Pilates environment, the reformer is also a great tool, since it adds forward/backward movement to most exercises. Add a head turn on top of it, and you’re working the otolith organs and the semicircular canals all together.
An easy exercise is to do footwork on the reformer, turning your head to the right as you press out, then center as you return the carriage. Then turn your head in the opposite direction. Repeat several times.
A (much) tougher exercise is to do lunges on the reformer or leg presses on the chair, adding a head turn as your knee comes in, and turning your head to center as it presses away.
No reformer? If your gym has a treadmill, try walking on it holding on to the rails and turn your head to each side, up and down, up to the right and left, and down to the right and left. For most people who have vestibular problems, one direction is going to be worse than others. So, do that one the most.
If you don’t feel a difference, definitely head to a doctor to find out if there’s something more serious going on.
To learn more about all of the aspects of balance, you can check out Wobbly: A Balance Workshop on Pilates Anytime. Not a member of Pilates Anytime? Sign up here for a free 30 day trial! (That’s plenty of time to watch the workshop at a discount and check out all of their wonderful content!)