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holding arms above my head for short length of time


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The last few times I have attempted to cut anyone in families hair or work with my arms above my head I have experienced fainting. On one occasion I thought the heat outside was causing it but it still happens if it's cool weather or I'm inside.   I have always done my workouts (lifting small weights) thinking that would build muscle but that hasn't helped at all.  Any ideas what is happening?  The first time it happened if was frightening.  Thanks.

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@gertie, I think it’s harder for your body to pump blood to your arms when they are raised. And your muscles are holding a strenuous position, so they need more blood to hold your arms out or up. So it’s more a matter of inadequate blood flow in orthostatic intolerance.

I have seen many reports of people struggling when they hold their arms out or up for an extended period, e.g. putting up a picture, washing hair, doing tai chi moves.

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@gertie, for the haircuts, perhaps the recipient could sit on a low chair and you could perch on a bar stool and take frequent breaks.

I haven’t been to the hairdresser for years, but don’t hairdressers use a stool with wheels sometimes? So even the professionals need a bit of help.

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@gertie this is quite common in dysautonomia. For me even washing my hair in the shower triggers it. And hanging laundry outside. The only way I found to go around this problem is avoiding any activity that requires me raising my arms. I have to wash my hair sitting down in the shower, and not hanging laundry!

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I can experience presyncope sensations when raising my arms or using them strenuously. I was holding my puppy the other day and did curls with her and I immediately felt sick like I was going to faint. It's awful! I'm sorry this is happening to you as well. 

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I get out of breath bad. No fainting from doing that. But I did change a light bulb a month ago. I got extremely nauseated for hours. Don't understand the correlation but I know that's what made me sick. But yeah my arms start burning lifting them up. Like it's abnormal. Can't do it long at all. 

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I have had lightheadedness since i was a kid with raised arms. Cardiology routinely takes arterial beats with the arms above the head for good reason. Can't say the faint feeling is due to dysautonomia or just what happens normally.   

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@gertie, have you tried a compression garment that covers the abdomen (if that’s appropriate for your diagnosis)?

I don’t know whether it would make a big difference, but it might help with some of the less strenuous chores.

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Yep, holding my arms over my head, especially when looking up while doing so, like working on something above me, definitely is a trigger for me.   Which isn't very convenient since I end up having to work on overhead things more often than I wish. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, I played basketball prior to getting diagnosed. One of the main symptoms I had was I felt like I couldn't hold my arms up on defense, and when practicing the Mikan drill (repeated layups on each side of the basket) I held my hands over my head with my neck pointed up at the basket, and I ended up passing out. That was the most severe POTS episode I've ever experienced, and it pops up in other chores around the house. It's hard to wash my hair sometimes, and bending over to load the dishwasher and reaching to put things away up high is hard.

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