Gravity and Balance

Until we become dizzy, we take our internal balance system for granted. I found out that I certainly do, when I started having sudden dizzy spells after a swim in the ocean.

We know that our equilibrium is based mostly in our deep inner ears. There is a small fluid in the ear that rests at “horizontal” (recorded by small hair vibrations and micro crystals). Other key nerves and structures understand their part in maintaining their relationship to that inner ear. Ideally.

One of those other structures is a combo of nerves from your inner ankle area and spinal column, which decide if you are standing on a hill, and if your body is upright. Obviously, blind people don’t tip over at will, so eyes on the horizon are secondary, but they are utilized as well. When some or all of these systems are not organized together, you have a problem.

Abnormal fluid or congestion from a cold, or water in the ear tip that balance and creates a state of chaos to a degree, making/forcing the whole system to scramble to “right the ship.” Children usually love to do this to themselves, by spinning and riding roller coasters, and doing endless somersaults. Normally, it is a quickly regulated chaos. But when it won’t re-regulate, it can be very disturbing, as anyone with chronic dizzy spells can tell you. Most notable is the feeling of nausea when balance is not held consistently overall.

Obviously, removing the fluid, pressure or congestion causing the state is key. But a few tricks can help during the dizzy spells. These suggestions exploit the system of balance. They are not meant to be medical advice; seek a doctor or emergency care for dizziness from any unknown cause, or if the symptoms are prolonged.

First, the ankles, soles of feet and palms of hands do part of the job in orienting a body. When the world seems tilted, a horizon can be established through the hands placed on anything horizontal, like a table. Feet both solid on the floor, knees slightly unlocked, to keep information passing through the legs, and circulation optimal.

By the above principle, it’s harder to stabilize against moving objects or other humans (leaning on a friend), as they don’t give the brain “horizontal” or “vertical” signals. Best to find something solid, like a wall or table, and standing is preferred over sitting, but if you’re feeling like falling, sitting with the soles of your feet on the floor is best. If you have a wall and sit the chair facing the wall, you can also place the palms of both hands on the wall in front of you while the feet are on the floor, maximizing the information.

Even if neither is available, the body still internally “knows” gravity. Gravity has a strong and constant downward tug, an unconscious constant since before birth. In a sudden dizzy spell, relaxation is better than movement, which would at that point be unguided by any “set normal.” If you can will yourself to drop your weight (effectively loosening resistance and feeling heavy), your internal sensory perception can orient to the down direction, and be more capable of orientation to the others directions. Another way to feel gravity is to let your body hang from top down, as if someone had a hold on your head and you dangled like a clock pendulum. Whatever makes you feel more pulled by gravity downward. Note that only one of these last two suggestions may feel more normal for you! Most people are wired to find gravity strongly one way or the other, either hanging or dropping, and the other may make dizziness worse.

I’ve been dizzy for more than a week now, and had some time to check it out. If I’m asleep and move my head too fast, I can be awakened by that spinning sensation. So I use the dropping tactic, by dropping my weight and noticing the bed. Luckily, it’s a firm mattress and gives a good horizontal cue.

The freer a body is for adjusting to gravity, the easier the adaptations to dizziness. Rolfing® Structural Integration is great for increasing subtle freedom—before you ever need it, by changing rigid patterns, and offering more options for a body in gravity. I’m grateful for what this dizzy week taught me, but I’m ready to end the experiment and take my balance for granted again. Off to the clinic for treatment of this congestion!