Did you see this blog post about the connection between vertigo and stress? This is the  most salient quote:

In a study by CD Balaban and JF Thayer published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders in 2001, a review of scientific literature revealed a relationship based on shared pathways that control vestibular function and somatic and visceral sensory information processing. This means that the parts of your brain that help you interpret incoming balance information from your vestibule, a part of the cochlea, also process information that appears to be involved in avoidance, anxiety and conditioned fear. One can be forgiven for thinking that this is not nature’s most perfect design.

And how.


I picture this as two cars sharing a narrow road. If they are cars of similar size, then both the balance car and the stress car can fit on the road. If the stress car turns into a semi truck, however, then there is less of the road available for the balance car. Trouble ensues.

I noticed this correlation a few months ago. I’d been unusually stressed, and a few times I’d experienced momentary vertigo symptoms when talking or thinking about specific stressful triggers. The onset of my vertigo in 2009 and 2013 was preceded by unusually severe stressors, so I had a sense of the relationship between the two, but until now I’d never noticed stress as a worsening factor once an episode of vertigo had already started.

The Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) offers many free publications online, and the one on “Controlling Your Symptoms” focuses on stress-reducing strategies such as controlled breathing and relaxation. That is telling. The have separate publications about dietary considerations, vestibular physical therapy, etc., but the most broad article centers on stress.

One of the things that I found most frustrating when this episode of vertigo started last year was that my usual stress-reducing activities were contraindicated. Lying flat on a table for a massage made me dizzy, to say nothing of rolling from front to back. Exercise like yoga, rock climbing, biking, and swimming was difficult–and dangerous when my symptoms flared. Running was tricky, and often I was too fatigued to work out since my body and brain were constantly working to keep me upright. I gradually came to recognize how even the most subtle nausea stilled me in my chair.

But stress is definitely a factor for me. I have to control and reduce it. So I restarted my meditation practice. I joined a gym so I could take a spin class (on stationary bikes – perfect for me). I sought support at home and at work for dealing with my stressors. I turned down opportunities that would make me “too busy,” as I knew that could make me feel worse. I recently began acupuncture, and that has seemed to help, and being able to return to modified yoga with my familiar yoga buddies has been a wonderful boost to my emotional and physical equilibrium. I have some stressors that I can’t control at the moment, so I am focusing on what is within my control. Every day I think about ways to reduce my stress, and I am constantly experimenting to see what works.

What are your most effective stress-reducing strategies?