Tag Archive: injury

Collateral damage

I’ve been thinking about the consequences of having vertigo.  In my head, I call this “collateral damage,” but that’s probably not the best term. It’s things like this:

  • I can no longer swim crawl stroke, and because I’m not vigorously turning my head to breathe during swim workouts, my neck is healthier, and I’ve triggered fewer headaches. (No, I do not have cervical vertigo.)

So this is a positive outcome of having vertigo. Yay! I’ve also blogged about how my quads have gotten stronger, not only because I was taking a spin class, but also because I was squatting and kneeling more instead of bending over.

Of course, there have been negative outcomes as well. In early January 2013 I injured my shoulder. It was incredibly painful to sleep on, so I slept more on my right side. Once the vertigo was in full force at the end of February, I had to stop sleeping on my right side because that was the “dizzy side.” My left side still hurt, so I was stuck on my back at night. This did not make my body happy, and my sleep quality was affected. Collateral damage.

I started physical therapy to resolve the shoulder issue, but the vertigo limited my ability to lay flat on a treatment table and also to turn my head while supine. The PT worked around those limitations, and I made some progress, but after a particularly disastrous vacation, I stopped PT to focus on treating the vertigo. Months later, when the vertigo reached the “chronic but manageable” phase, I returned to PT and fixed that shoulder once and for all. At that point a little dizziness was worth it to end the twelve months of intense discomfort and pain I had experienced.

There were also subtle effects on my relationship. I could no longer spoon my wife in bed. Even though she knew I had to avoid the dizzy side during treatment, the reality of turning my back to her every night felt standoffish to us both. We were surprised at how difficult it was to ignore that body language. And as I mentioned recently, my stress-reducing strategies like massage and yoga are contraindicated for vertigo, so I struggled to find new ways to relax and take care of myself.

What are the positive and negative outcomes of the condition or challenge you are facing?


Swim run brick

Yesterday I triggered the vertigo, and even though self treatment and sleeping up on two pillows seemed to solve the problem, my planned bike ride didn’t seem like a wise choice this morning. So for the first time since last season, I joined my friend and frequent training buddy at a local pond for a swim. All it took was a “You should do it” from my wife, and I was digging out my gear.

I haven’t swum in open water since the sprint triathlon I did last July, and I haven’t been in a pool for for at least three months. I wasn’t used to walking on sand, so I minced my way out and edged into the cold water. Turning my head to breathe was definitely contraindicated, so I used my snorkel and stuck to breaststroke and kicking drills. I definitely felt my triceps and hip flexors at first, but after I warmed up, I did about 20 minutes of easy swimming.

Afterward I was beaming! “Training Buddy” is preparing for an Olympic distance triathlon, so she headed out on her bike. I felt so good that I decided to do a short run and rack up my first brick in over a year. The swim had been a great warm up, so I ran easily. I was thrilled to be able to glance over my left shoulder to check for traffic at cross streets – this is one movement that has been problematic when the vertigo is active.

Everything was going well until my penultimate step. As I slowed down and pressed STOP on my watch timer, my left foot hit a partially buried rock, twisted outward, and sent me to the ground. I didn’t have much momentum so I didn’t slide, but I the gravelly path gave me some impressive road rash on my right shin and knee. The ankle hurt after I got home, so I started a regimen of anti-inflammatories and icing.



To be honest, I don’t think I have ever sprained my ankle. (I had to look up the treatment online!) On the occasions when my ankle has twisted, I’ve always been able to catch myself and have never fallen. This time, I was tired from doing a brick with very little training, and that probably contributed to my fall. Although it is tempting to wonder if the vertigo or inner ear hypofunction was a factor today, I think it wasn’t. I blame the damn rock in the path.

I am proud to have done the brick today. Kind of amazed, too, since I haven’t been training. I felt a little more like myself, experiencing the rhythm of training, and feeling pleased at how resilient and strong my body still is.