The vestibular system is responsible for keeping our head and body balanced so that we can remain upright as we move through our world. This seemingly simple task requires the vestibular system to communicate with a wide variety of brain structures. Many of these structures are also involved in emotion and our bodies ‘fight-or-flight’ response. When we are dizzy, this is communicated with these areas of the brain and causes symptoms such as increased emotions, feeling like your heart is racing, anxiety, and memory problems.
Knowing that there is a real, physiological connection between our vestibular system and the areas of our brain that controls emotions can be very powerful for patients. These connections are the cause of increased emotional responses in patients with vestibular dysfunction and dizziness. Luckily, this is not a dead end! Through vestibular rehabilitation, the type of therapy performed at Balance Chicago, we can not only improve dizziness but also reduce the emotional symptoms associated with it.
First, the most important thing a person can do while falling is relaxing. This is not an easy task but relaxing while falling decreases the risk of injury. Consider this: children fall all the time but rarely hurt themselves. This is because they have not learned to fear falling and associated injuries the way adults have so they are able to stay relaxed. The floppier you can make our body, the better it is able to absorb the forces of impact. Once falling, the goal is not to fight the fall but to roll with it.
Second, avoid hitting your head. Once again, this is easier said than done and how to do this will depend on how you are falling. Options for protecting your head while falling include bringing your arm up protectively, tucking your chin, and/or rotating so that contact is made on either side of your body instead of straight on. When using your arm protectively, make sure your elbow is bent and ideally, you hit your upper arm the ground first and not your elbow or wrist. Also, if you can rotate so that you land on your side instead of falling straight backward or forwards, you will lessen the chance of hitting your head.
Lastly, try to hit the ground with the largest amount of cushioned (read: areas made up of fat and muscle) surface area. You can do this by rolling so that your back/side contacts the ground first instead of boney areas like your elbow, hip, or shoulder. Avoid sticking your arm straight out to catch yourself because that is a very common cause of injury for the wrist, arm, and shoulder.
If you can remember to relax, protect your head, and hit with a large portion of your body you will likely be feeling a lot better following a fall. If you have concerns about your risk of falls or want more information, you can give us a call at Balance Chicago at 773-525-5200.