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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Your Brain and Balance Problems

If I had to say which of my symptoms bothers me most, I would have to say it is my balance. It's really hard to choose, because all of the symtpoms I live with bother me a great deal, but my balance problems really, really get to me. I have days where I feel like I should just "sit" all day and not even try to walk. And actually, the strange thing is that although my balance is bad enough when walking, it happens to be when I'm standing still and not moving at all, that it's the worst.

The brain stem is the governor of balance. And although I had problems with balance when I just had the Arachnoid Cyst, it got much worse when I developed my Chiari Malformation. My cyst was putting pressure on my brain stem, so I was already having enough trouble with balance. But once my brain stem herniated into my spine, WOW! I noticed a huge difference! I found that suddenly I was walking like I was always on a boat, rocking in the waves. I would have to reach out and grab onto something, or someone sometimes when I was walking, or when standing still. Over time, I got to where I would hold my legs different....tight. My knees would get thrown back to keep my balance, or I would cock a leg out to gain my balance when just standing there.

Bending over has become a thing of dread! I get so frustrated some days when I feel like all I do is bend over to pick something up. Those days are usually because I'm having a bad day of dropping everything that gets in my hands, and I have to bend and pick them up. Or my kids have dropped things on the floor that I'm having to clean up after them. I will bend to retrieve the item, lose my balance, wobble, almost fall over, miss the object I'm trying to get, then have to regain my balance and try again. It's a process - and an ordeal.

Once I've gotten whatever it is I was aiming for, it usually always makes me stop to think how people who don't have this problem, just don't know how lucky they are to be able to just bend over and pick something up off the floor. It's just a normal function, that most people don't ever put any thought into. I mean, why would they? Their brains work properly and they just do whatever it is they need to do without any thought. I have to think about everything I do today - every move I make. I have to put thought into every action, and it can be exhausting!

What I have learned is to slow down. I try not to do things too fast, but to concentrate on the task I'm doing so that I am more apt to do it right and without incident, the first time. Like emptying the dishwasher, for instance. That is a prime time for me to lose my balance and drop things. Unloading the silverware seems to be a chore that is very difficult. Because my hands don't work as well either, today, I tend to drop things easily when unloading the dishwasher - especially the silverware. I don't grasp things like I used to, so getting too many pieces of silverware in my hand is prime, dropping time for me. Then there's just losing my balance in general when bending over the dishwasher to pull things out. That is cause too, for dropping whatever is in my hand because suddenly I'm needing my hand free to grab onto the counter or something to get my balance. So over time, I have learned to only get a few pieces of silverware or one or two glasses at a time. I don't overload myself with items. It may take me longer to get the chore done, but at least most times now, I'm not having to bend and pick up items off the floor. I mean, there are still days that it just doesn't matter what I do, how I do it, or the thought and care I put into the task to avoid dropping things, I'm just going to drop whatever is in my hands, regardless.

There are things like balance therapy that I have talked to my doctor, my neurosurgeon, about. He recommended I try it, but I have yet to seek any treatment or therapy sessions. For some reason, for me and my case, I am just not sure that it will really help. I look at it as....until my herniated brain stem is corrected and not dangling down into the spine anymore, there is no therapy that's going to work. I could be wrong about that, I don't know. And I may opt to get the therapy or try it, one day. But for now, I just keep trying my tricks of standing in a certain way when standing still, stopping before I bend over to consciously think about what I'm doing and concentrate on the task before I just dive into the bent-over position. I make sure that I have my balance as best as possible, before I just bend and pick. Even so, I can still topple, but it does help.

I do still fall sometimes, too, and believe me, at 43 years old, falling down isn't pretty. If something takes me off guard and off balance enough that I can't recover from quickly enough, I have been known to hit the ground. Let me tell you, it hurts more today, falling as a grown woman, than when I was a kid. I don't know if I'm falling harder or if it's that I'm not able to fall as gracefully, like you do when you're a child. What I remember is that you tend to know how to fall when you're a kid, and just fall easier, more gracefully, something. Today, it is ugly, and it hurts! For a while, I seemed to have these constant bruises on my knee like I did when I was a kid.

If you suffer from balance problems with your brain cyst or Chiari, maybe you would benefit from balance therapy - I don't know. I just know that everyone is different and responds to different treatments differently. What may not work for one, may work for someone else. I do know that it is something to think about and maybe look into. Just because I don't think it will work for me, doesn't mean it wouldn't work for someone else. Like I said, I may follow through with it down the road. I have actually been thinking more about it recently.

Here is a link to learn more about balance therapy.

And if you suffer from balance problems with your brain cyst, or have a Chiari Malformation or other brain issues that create balance problems, try to just slow down and concentrate a little harder on your task and what you are doing. That's what I can recommend. You can't just "do" anymore. You have to think about what you do - every step of the way, and prepare yourself.

Although I still have my days, like I said, where it seems like no matter what I do, I am just off balance, I can usually make it at least a little bit better by slowing down and using more concentration on what I'm doing, and on my every move.

Today I also try to be more forgiving of myself and my inadequacies. It used to really bother me that I always bump into things, or lean, or topple. Today, I try to laugh it off more. I also find myself explaining to others - people I know, or even don't know that see me lean, wobble, and almost fall. When I see them looking and staring at me like maybe I've been drinking, I just flash them a smile and say, "Brain surgery." And then they usually smile, and they seem to get it. Many times I get a sympathetic look or an, "awwww."

Below are a few links to some balance exercises you can try at home. I do, do them sometimes and plan on getting into a more regular routine with them to see if I can do any good for myself with some balance exercises. I will post down the road about my experience with them and let you know if they do help. And story may help you get through whatever it is you are dealing with - "It's all in Your Head," now available on Amazon, through Barnes and Noble, Tate Publishing and wherever you buy books.

Links to balance exercises:





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