Can Swimming Cause Vertigo? The Answer Will Surprise You

November 17, 2019


Do you love swimming but worry you may feel “sick” afterward? Swimming is a fun activity until you get dizzy and feel a false spinning sensation. Dizziness and vertigo often hit swimmers when they use specific swimming strokes or right after being in the pool. Fortunately, they are typically mild and brief, and not a cause for concern.

If water gets in your ear, you may likely experience dizziness and vertigo while swimming. Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence in people, which is why doctors have coined the term “swimmer’s ear” to pertain to any inflammation, infection, or pain in the ear due to water trapped in the ear canal.

But swimming isn’t the only activity that can cause swimmer’s ear. It can happen due to many things, even from showering or another pastime that can infect the outer ear canal.

What Causes Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear is primarily due to the breaking down of the skin lining of the ear canal that lets bacteria or fungi spread in the outer ear. This split of the ear skin can stem from the following: 

  • Scratching of the ear area
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis
  • Improper cleaning of the ears with cotton swabs
  • Insertion of objects in the ear
  • Use of earplugs or hearing aids
  • Exposure to chemicals such as bleaches and hair dyes

Swimmer’s ear can bring about several symptoms such as earache, ringing in the ear, itching, swelling, difficulty hearing, dizziness, and vertigo. According to the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Hospital, when you get in the cold water at the swimming pool or beach, you may experience aural vertigo due to the trapped water in your ears. For some reason, this can cause reflex activity in the semicircular canals of your inner ear or labyrinth. 

On the other hand, swimmer’s ear is not the only thing to blame. Dizziness and vertigo when swimming can be results of many different possible culprits. 

Other Causes of Dizziness and Vertigo While Swimming


Swimming is just like any other workout that causes the body to lose fluids through sweat. Starting your routine at the pool (especially during summertime) without drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, headaches, dizziness, and even vertigo.

Allergies or Asthma

Having asthma or allergy to pollen in the air within the pool area or chlorine and other pool chemicals can lead to dizziness after a swim. 

Low blood sugar

If you have been swimming for hours and did not eat any food before you swam, you may feel dizzy spells due to lower blood sugar levels. 


When you feel tense, anxious, or stressed out before or during your dip in the pool, it can have an impact on the blood flowing to your brain. If there’s not enough blood flow, this can also result in dizziness.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

Moving your head suddenly while swimming can bring about the condition known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). The Asian Journal of Sports Medicine published a study on a woman who developed BPPV following long-term swimming habits. The Epley maneuver, a type of repositioning exercise, helped in effectively relieving her vertigo symptoms. 

How to Alleviate Dizziness and Vertigo When Swimming 

Eat Food and Drink Enough Water

Grab some snacks and stay well hydrated before you swim to prevent low blood sugar levels and dehydration. Do this, most especially if you plan to swim for an extended time.

Wear Earplugs

There are special filter earplugs you can wear to prevent water from entering your ears. This can also keep you from having an ear infection that can bring about vertigo.

Relax in the Water

Remove your fears and worries. Fix your eyes on a line on the pool floor and reduce your head movements to ease yourself when swimming. If you’re in open water, it is best to stare at something steady such as the horizon or bottom of the sea. This can help to settle your brain. 

Change Your Swimming Strokes

The backstroke is an excellent swimming style that keeps the head in a fixed position. Doctors also suggest alternating your breathing sides when doing the front crawl.

Seek Professional Help

Get the help of a medical practitioner to evaluate yourself of any underlying conditions that can cause your dizziness and vertigo while swimming.

Upper Cervical Chiropractic Can Be the Solution

Another cause of vertigo that most people hardly know about is a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine, particularly the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Doctors have long recognized the connection between an upper cervical subluxation and the onset of vertigo. 

The C1 and C2 Vertebrae Play a Part

The brainstem processes the information on balance and orientation. Both the C1 and C2 vertebrae protect the brainstem from injury and ensure its optimal function. However, if damage occurs in this area, one of these bones may misalign. The brainstem may have to suffer undue pressure, and there’s an increased chance it may malfunction. If this happens, the brainstem may start sending incorrect signals to the brain about the body’s position amid its surroundings. The inevitable result is vertigo.

Realigning the C1 and C2 Vertebrae for Vertigo Relief

Upper cervical chiropractic care can realign your C1 and C2 bones with gentleness and precision. Practitioners of upper cervical care encourage the bones to move back into their correct positions naturally. A case study can back up the effectiveness of this unique form of therapy.

If you want to bid goodbye to your dizziness and vertigo after just a few adjustments, we urge you to seek the care of an upper cervical chiropractor in your area.


Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Areato schedule a consultation today.


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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.