The Key to Decreasing Vertigo during Gymnastics Movements

9am CrossFitters working on headstand, forward and backward rolls.

9am CrossFitters working on headstand, forward and backward rolls.

Recently, We have asked our members to help contribute to our blog with some of their own expertise. Today we have an article written by CrossFitters and Physical Therapists, Ryann and Teri Roberts, on the issue of vertigo while performing gymnastics movements. As most of you know Ryann and Teri own Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy here in Goodyear and have helped many of athletes work through injuries or prevent further injuries. So check out what they have to say about that dizzy feeling you get after a forward roll and how to prevent it in the future.

Over the past few months, Pete has begun to utilize gymnastic exercises in classes to enhance our mobility and skills training. These gymnastic moves that we heavily favored as children can give us a very nauseated feeling as an adult. The dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea can become extreme after performing forward or backward somersaults. Some individuals have these feelings with handstand holds or any other inverted positions. Despite these challenges, it is important to perform these gymnastic skills. Let’s learn why we get so nauseous and what we can do to decrease that horrible feeling after flipping upside down.

Somersaults and other gymnastic moves are a great way to work on flexibility and strength. It places your body in positions that are not performed on a regular basis and allows for end range activity. Gymnastic skills also improve your body’s proprioception (how your body relates to other parts of your body) and body awareness (how you are able to move your body, or, in other words – coordination). Gymnastic moves encourage full body training that requires a “skill” component that will also allow you to track progress of your workouts. Not to mention that gymnastics is pure fun!

wall picMany adults become extremely dizzy when flipping upside down. This is completely normal and does not suggest a problem with sensory systems. The feeling of dizziness, more accurately vertigo, occurs when there is a conflict between signals sent to the brain by various balance systems of the body. Your brain receives input from four sensory systems of your body – vision, joints or proprioceptive system, skin pressure, and the vestibular system of the inner ear.

The vestibular system is the primary sensory system in our body that contributes to balance and spatial orientation. The vestibular system comprises of two components – the semicircular canal system (for rotational movements) and the otoliths (for linear movement). After a rotational movement (somersaults) or linear acceleration (swinging), the vestibular system sends signals to the brain structure of the eyes and the muscles. When you perform a novel activity such as a somersault, handstand or cartwheel, your body reacts to the movement, causing vertigo. The vertigo becomes even more complex when you take away the vision component while performing a backwards somersault. As kids we spent MUCH more time spinning, swinging, and in inverted positions. By increasing the time spent in inverted positions as adults, your sensory system will become more automatic, reacting faster with less less adverse feelings of vertigo.

You may ask, “How can I decrease the feeling of dizziness/vertigo during gymnastic drills?” The best way to improve is to practice. The increased repertoire of movement creates better sensory and neural connections, allowing for your system to react without the extreme feelings of vertigo. Additionally, remember to exhale when you roll, cartwheel or flip upside down and maintain a good level of hydration. Try not to close your eyes, allowing your visual system to assist with the vestibular system.

If these tips do not eliminate the feeling of vertigo, you may still flip, spin, or hang upside down–just as long as the vertigo dissipates within a few minutes. If you have the feeling of vertigo and dizziness for hours after the workout you may want to call your physician.