3 Reasons Your Vertigo Gets Worse in Winter

If you’ve ever suffered from an episode of vertigo, then you already know how debilitating it can be, and you never want it to happen again.

Vertigo is a sensation where the environment around you spins, making you feel dizzy and off-balance. When you’re experiencing a severe episode of vertigo, it can be a real feeling of helplessness. The feeling of dizziness can be so severe that you can’t even get out of bed, never mind walk or drive anywhere.

Vertigo attacks can happen at any age and any time.

Nearly 40% of Americans will experience vertigo at least once in their lifetime, it’s more common in folks over age 65, it affects women more than men, and we see more occurrences in Winter than Summer. Technically, vertigo is a symptom and not a condition itself. A common cause of vertigo is from something called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).

BPPV occurs when a clump of crystals in your inner ear moves. This causing a severe spinning sensation when moving your head. It’s “benign” to those who have never experienced an episode. Since Winter is coming – there’s a good chance it could get triggered.

Here are three reasons why Vertigo is worse in Winter:

1. Low Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is made in the skin when it’s exposed to sunlight – therefore – sun exposure is our best way to keep Vitamin D levels high. If you live in an area like New England, keeping your Vitamin D levels adequate all year long (especially in Winter) can be challenging. Studies have shown a close correlation between low levels of Vitamin D and BPPV.

This could explain why we see more cases of vertigo in the Winter.

In one North Korean study, they looked at 957 people who suffered from BPPV and were already being treated successfully with specific head movements. About half the group (who had low Vitamin D levels to begin with) started taking Vitamin D supplements. After one year – they compared the two groups – and found the supplement-taking folks had lower occurrences of their BPPV compared to the non-supplement-taking group.

If you’re prone to BPPV, and you live in a climate that gets lower sunlight this time of year, it might help your vertigo if you start supplementing with Vitamin D.

2. Less Physical Activity

Another unintended consequence of Winter is less physical activity. When it’s dark upon rising, and dark again by 4:30p, you’re just not as motivated to get out and walk, run, or bike ride.

Therefore, we tend to get a bit more sedentary in the Winter.

Prolonged periods of rest in reclined, sedentary positions is a known trigger for BPPV. That’s another reason we see an uptick in vertigo during Winter. People are simply not as active and lying down more.

Making an extra effort to stay active in Winter could go a long way in helping decrease your vertigo. Try scheduling an exercise class you’re held accountable to. This could help you resist the urge to hit the snooze button or go straight home to your recliner.

3. More Ear Infections

Winter allergies are a “thing” and can lead to fluid buildup in your inner ear. This creates a prime breeding ground for bacteria and can turn into an ear infection.

Your vestibular system is located deep within your inner ear and something like an ear infection can disrupt its function. Think of it as a stereo system. The left and right ears work together but send separate signals to your brain. If the signal from one ear is disrupted by an infection – our brains will get confused. This will trigger symptoms of dizziness and loss of balance (vertigo).

Are you already know you’re prone to episodes of vertigo or BPPV?  You’ll want to take extra precaution in the Winter to try and avoid ear infections. If your vertigo tends to flare up every Winter – hopefully this information helps. It’s important to understand why this could be happening. More importantly – what you can do to avoid it.

But regardless of whether you suffer from vertigo more during Winter or not – the good news is that it’s a very treatable condition any time of year. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo and it can be treated in as little as four sessions by a Vestibular Specialist.

Are you local to Portsmouth, NH? 

Our vestibular specialist has a few openings available for the rest of the year. CLICK HERE to schedule your discovery visit and we will see if we’re a good fit to help – and get you on a treatment plan right away.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, or get her free guide for getting rid of vertigo naturally, visit CLICK HERE or email [email protected].

3 Signs Balance Problems are all “In Your Head”

As we get older – balance problems tend to creep up on us.

Everything from poor vision to weak muscles to stiff joints can have an impact on how steady we are on our feet.

Activities like Yoga and Tai Chi are great for improving balance because they help you to focus and become more aware of how your body is moving. Having a strong core and leg muscles are also key.

But what if you’ve been working on all of these areas and your balance problems still haven’t improved?

There’s one other huge contributor to balance and it’s called your vestibular system. It’s one of our three major balance systems and it’s located in your inner ear – literally in your head.

Your vestibular system is responsible for sensing movement and changes in your head position and when it’s not working properly, it will definitely impact your balance.

How do you know if your vestibular system is dysfunctional?

One of the most tell-tale signs is dizziness, commonly known as “vertigo”, and it’s more common than most people think. Approximately 35% (that’s 69 million) of adults over the age of 40 have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction.

This number gets even higher as we age and recurrence becomes more common with 80% of people over the age of 65. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, or how many times you practice standing on one leg – if your unsteadiness is from vertigo – you remain at a high risk of falling until you get this sorted out.

Vertigo is no fun and it can be extremely debilitating.

While medication can be used to reduce the sensation of dizziness, it tends to only mask the symptoms.

When the medication is stopped many people are faced with the same symptoms they started with.

The most common form of dizziness among older adults is from BPPV (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) and is only benign to those that haven’t experienced the debilitating impact it has on your daily functions. BPPV happens when a clump of crystals move within the inner ear-control center for balance, causing a severe spinning sensation when moving your head. It’s treated by moving the crystals in a specific pattern to get them back in proper alignment.

This condition becomes more common over New England winters when we do not get as much sunlight or vitamin D– which can make you more susceptible to changes in the inner ear crystals.

Vestibular hypofunction can also be a reason for dizziness or unsteadiness, and it typically happens after something like a whiplash injury or sudden attack that leaves you feeling scared and unsteady. Vestibular problems can be challenging to accurately diagnose.

Here are three signs that indicate your balance problems might be due to a vestibular dysfunction:

1. Things Spin When You Bend Over

Ever been in the middle of gardening, or getting in and out of bed, and things start spinning for no good reason?

People often mistake this for dehydration or low blood pressure. These are certainly possibilities, but it could also be from a dysfunctional vestibular system. Because this system is located deep within your inner ear, it’s most affected by large head movements. Movements such as bending over. If the system in your ear doesn’t keep up with how fast your body is moving – things start spinning.

While it’s common for this to happen from time to time, if it’s happening a lot, or gets so severe that you can’t stand up, then it’s worth getting looked at.

2. It’s Hard to Walk Around in the Dark

As we get older, vision is one of the first things to become impaired.

Vision is another major player in how well you balance. It becomes critically important that your other two systems – vestibular and proprioception – are in good shape.

If you have strong legs and typically don’t have a problem with balance during the day you may notice that at night or in dim lighting your balance always seems to be off. This could be a sign that your vestibular system is dysfunctional.

3. Crowds Make You Unsteady

Many of us dislike crowds.

Is the reason you avoid them is because you’re afraid of falling or you find that crowds make you dizzy? This could mean that your vestibular system is off.

Public, busy settings can overstimulate our nervous system, making it more difficult for your brain to coordinate with your inner ear.

Do you find that every time you’re in a busy grocery store you have difficulty remaining steady while looking around? But you’re always fine in your quiet home? It could be a sign that your vestibular system needs to be checked.

Do you notice any of these signs? Are you finding yourself off balance and more dizzy than usual? You could have a vestibular problem.

The good news is that vestibular dysfunction can be helped without medication. It’s done by training the brain to accommodate for these changes in your inner ear.

Are balance problems like Vertigo getting in the way of your everyday life?

It just so happens that we have a Vestibular Specialist on our team!

CLICK HERE to request a FREE Discovery Call with one of my specialists.

Someone from my client success team will call you right away. They’ll see if you are a good fit for what we do and figure out a plan to get you back to doing the activities that you love. So you can be pain free and reduce your stress levels the right way to be your best and most healthy self 🙂

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, or request a free copy of one of her guides to back, neck, knee, or shoulder pain, email her at [email protected].