Rising out of my backbend in yoga class, the world shifted, leaving my mind and body reeling from the dizziness. Luckily my knees were planted firmly on the ground so I did not topple over, but it was disorienting and very unpleasant. As I turned around to lie down in shavasana, I knew it was the start of my least favorite time of the year.
Each November as the weather turns colder, my seasonal tinnitus spikes and the seasonal spins make their unwelcome appearance. It is always a rough period of time as my body acclimates to the changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure that come with winter.
Tinnitus and Vertigo Are Seasonal
It turns out that I am not alone in my seasonal suffering. According to a March 2016 study in the Journal of Otology, vertigo is in fact seasonal. The researchers found statistically significant seasonal variation in benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) which is rotational vertigo induced by head position changes. The correlation of BPPV with temperature and atmospheric pressure changes was also statistically significant. In other words, this type of vertigo comes and goes with the weather.
The study also showed meaningful links between BPPV and many other factors, including sex and age. For example BPPV was found to be most prevalent in middle-aged women. The report also cited other studies linking BPPV to lower levels of vitamin D, lower bone density (perhaps as a result of a more sedentary lifestyle in the winter), and nasal allergies. None of this is good for me, a 50+ year-old woman living in NYC.
How to Manage Seasonal Spikes in Dizziness
Vertigo can be quite debilitating, especially in extreme cases. I am lucky that my vertigo remains mild and seasonal. For much of the year, it is not a factor. During the seasonal spins, I use a variety of strategies to lesson its impact.
It’s hard to jump from activity to activity when you feel dizzy and nauseous, so I force myself to slow down, take breaks, and moderate my schedule. It can be frustrating, particularly as the holiday season revs up, but it can also be a good excuse for moderation.
Abrupt head movements can bring on a sudden bout of dizziness, so I move as mindfully and methodically as I can. I take extra time to shift position, to stand up or to lie down, hoping not to shock my system. During my yoga practice, I move in and out of backward and forward bends very slowly, and if I need to, I skip the postures that seem to aggravate the condition.
While I don’t feel a noticeable impact from changes in diet, the Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding caffeine, alcohol, salt and tobacco to help curb dizziness. Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding driving or operating heavy machinery in case a bout of dizziness appears without warning.
When feeling dizzy, lying down in the dark with my eyes closed can help lessen the sensation. Thankfully, my seasonal spins usually pass after a few weeks, so mostly, I try to wait as patiently as possible until life returns to normal.
Readers, do you experience bouts of seasonal dizziness?
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14 thoughts on “Do You Get the Seasonal Spins (Vertigo)?”
I had a sudden, bad bout of of BPPV last summer. It was the first time it had happened and it scared me to death. I made an appointment to see my doctor, but also googled the symptoms and learned about it. I also found the Epley Maneuver, watched a video on YouTube, and tried it. My symptoms were gone! I still went to see my doctor, and she said that’s exactly what she would have recommended.
Here is an explanation of BPPV and the Epley Maneuver: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/home-epley-maneuver
Thank you for sharing this information.
I have experienced BPPV a handful of times and agree that it’s not pleasant. I’ve never noticed that mine comes at the same time of the year each time (seasonal), but thanks for the information regarding that in this article. My doctor gave me the Brandt-Daroff exercise to do to relieve the symptoms. It seems very similar to the home Epley maneuver. I usually have to do the exercises at least 3 days before getting relief. My audiologist has told me that dehydration can be a contributing factor to the onset of BPPV. Perhaps the dry air of winter leads to slight dehydration for some of us and adds to the seasonal affect. So drink lots of water!
Thank you for the suggestion and for sharing your story.
Thanks for writing this Shari, though it made me feel dizzy just reading it.
I have vestibular or migraine-associated vertigo, which comes on without any predictability. Luckily it seems under control but when it was active it hit me at a number of unfortunate times. Once I had to be carried out of the Uniqlo store on 5th Ave by an ambulance crew. Another time I threw up and collapsed in the lobby of a fancy East Side club. (I’m sure they thought I was drunk.) The Eply maneuver fortunately seems to work for BPPV – but don’t try to learn it on your own. Let a professional teach you. Our colleague Ruth Bernstein recommends sea bands (cheap wristbands that hit a pulse pressure point). Lots of water and careful diet (including, in addition to those foods you mentioned, aged cheeses, meats, wines). I have also learned to recognize the onset and can sometimes avert a full attack by lying down and closing my eyes.
I benefitted greatly from an online support group, which I unfortunately can not now find. If anyone knows of it. please let me know.
Thank you for sharing these tips!
Absolutely ~ in the Spring when the pollen count is high, the BPPV vertigo hits. I close the windows if anyone nearby is cutting their lawn. Other times, when I lay down and turn my head or body to the left, a wave of vertigo hits. It first hit me 33 years ago when I was 34.
Consuming a meal that has a lot of Salt in it, increases the intensity & loudness of the ringing in both ears, even though I have complete loss of hearing in one ear and moderate loss in the other ear.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. Best of luck to you!
Thanks for this post Shari. Some vertigo seems to be a common experience among those among us who have hearing issues and specially those of us who have had implant surgery, Soon after my surgery five years ago I had several episodes during which I barely avoided hurting myself.
Over time the intensity of these episodes deceased. I still have to be mindful when I turn or get up from a sitting position. Then in March of this year, while working in my kitchen, I turned too quickly, lost my balance and ran into the wall and fell. I broke the radius of my right arm and had to have a plate installed to which several bones in the wrist were screwed. For a couple of months that arm was useless. It was a hard lesson that I lean on many tines throughout the day. Thoughtless pivoting on one foot is simply not allowed any more. A lifetime of exercise and motion is a hard habit to break. Mindfulness in motion is now my watchword.
I am sorry to hear about your spill. As you say, we all need to move mindfully, because we can never be sure when the dizziness will hit. Thank you for sharing your story.
Wow! How amazing to know you have times of year when your vertigo comes! I had acoustic neuroma surgery 13 years ago. My vertigo, or unsteadiness, has never gone away. It gets worse when the barometer falls and improves a bit when the weather is nice. I’ve never noticed if my tinnitus changes. It’s always there. I have a dead left ear from the AN surgery, and the hearing on my good side is failing quickly from genetics. Thankfully, my hearing aid works very well. I had a BAHA abutment on my left side and it worked well, when I could get it on my head. Every time I wore the BAHA, I would get a deeper & deeper cut, pulling the skin from my BAHA . Finally, after 13 years, I had the outer part of the BAHA removed in October 2022. (I’m 60 years old now.)The skin has grown together, but I continue to have a bit of wound weeping. I don’t know if having the implant has caused my continuous vertigo/unsteadiness. I also have auras but no headache/migraines. That has been since my early teens. Oh, what I would give to only have vertigo/unsteadiness a few days every year! You are all so lucky! Believe me, be thankful you only have this for a few days or a week or 2. Having my hearing aid is so wonderful.
I do feel lucky that it is mostly seasonal for me. Thank you for sharing your story as well. Best wishes to you!