Motion Sickness While Swimming and Summer Races

Over the last six years I’ve been dealing with extreme motion sickness while swimming.  I used to be able to swim without any issue at all.  Then I took a break for a year.  When I came back to the pool for the first time I was fine for about 30 minutes.  The first time I did an hour of swimming was horrible.  I was so sick all I could do was wrap myself in a towel and lay on the bench in the locker room.  A woman in the locker room went and got a staff member because she was so worried about me.  I was so nauseated, dizzy, and faint that my sister had to meet me at the gym to ride the bus home with me.  Fortunately she had ginger flavored Altoids in her purse which took a little bit of the edge off.

I tried SO many things to combat the nausea – ginger Altoids, ginger chews, taking ginger pills before my swim, putting raw ginger in my water bottle (in short: the ginger really did not help for prevention), swimming while looking at the lane line, trying not rotate too much, eating more before practice, eating less, 1/2 doses of “less drowsy” Dramamine (just made me feel tired and weak AND nauseated), using earplugs, getting new goggles, swimming slower, swimming faster, skipping flip turns.  I think I tried everything.

After so much trial and error, I *think* I’ve finally found a combo that works for me!  I finally saw a physical therapist that specialized in inner ear issues.  I really scoffed at the idea at first that it was inner ear issues but then I remembered some bouts of vertigo I had experienced years earlier.  I had nearly three weeks of continuous vertigo once that finally cleared up somewhat spontaneously.  He taught me a version of the Epley maneuver which helped eliminate about 70% of my symptoms.  NPR has a great article about vertigo and the Epley Maneuver.

The 2nd piece that has helped a great deal is wearing Psi bands when I swim.  In the past I’ve had so-so luck with Sea Bands, the fabric acupressure bands that help prevent motion sickness. I was somewhat skeptical about the Psi bands but when worn correctly, the DO work.  I have to be very sure to put them on about an hour before swimming and that they are in the correct spot.  The downside of the Psi bands is that they aren’t very comfortable and they have a tendency to come apart.  So far they’ve stayed on while swimming but I wonder how they’ll do if I were to run into a lane line or another swimmer.

Doing both of these things has enabled me to swim three or four workouts recently (including one in a very cold lake!) without ANY sickness.  It’s amazing to me how much harder I can swim when I’m not thinking about barfing into the gutters!





*Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professonal, please see a physician before attempting anything I’ve suggested, ESPECIALLY if you are suddenly dealing with nausea, vertigo or dizziness.  They can have many causes.

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