Living a Balanced Life
Many of us have experienced dizziness at some time in our life, but imagine living every day feeling dizzy and nausea – for 30 years! That’s been the reality for Jackie Dwyer, who is now retraining her brain to get back on steady ground.
Jackie has suffered from positional vertigo for most of her life. “I can’t turn my head without getting dizzy. I can’t look up; I can’t look down; I can’t do certain exercises,” says Jackie. “I’ve always wanted to do yoga but I can’t do many of the moves and poses because of vertigo.”
Finally, after three decades of constant symptoms, Jackie learned there is help and relief for her condition. She’s getting weekly vestibular therapy at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center. “A lot of people say vertigo is dizziness or light-headedness, but that’s not quite accurate,” says Merri-Sjaan Pylkas, a physical therapist at Asante Center for Outpatient Health. “Vertigo is truly the illusion of things spinning around you.”
Merri-Sjaan does exercises with Jackie to help retrain her brain by getting it accustomed to motion. She asks Jackie to keep her eyes focused on one spot in front of her and then turn her head side to side. Then she has Jackie to look over one shoulder and lie down in the opposite direction.
These are exercises that would be easy for most people, but for Jackie it causes apprehension and fear. “Jackie’s brain is trained to anticipate the dizziness that comes from this type of movement,” says Merri-Sjaan. “The lightheadedness, the inability to walk a straight line, the sense that things are moving and shifting around her can cause anxiety.”
For Jackie, there is steadier ground at the end of her long journey. “I didn’t know there was help for me. I thought I’d have to live with this forever. After just a few therapy sessions I’m finally able to see there is hope for a more normal life.”