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Exercising with a Chiari Malformation

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A chiari malformation is a medical condition where the brain stem herniates into the spine. It is either congential - meaning you were born with it, or it is acquired, which means it developed due to other reasons, and over time.

I have an acquired chiari. Mine developed due to the shunt I have for my brain cyst, over-shunting for many months. The shunt drained too much cerebral spinal fluid and caused my brain to sag, which then ultimately caused the base of my brain to herniate, or fall below the skull line and into the spinal column. It can be dangerous to live with this condition, depending on the seriousness of it. However, you can also live as close to a normal life as possible - and you should.

Exercise has always been a big part of my life. I love to workout. It gives me energy, helps me maintain my weight, and it keeps me in good spirits. People with chiari malformations are encouraged to continue to workout and get plenty of exercise. You may need to tweak your workout to create a plan that will not be too strenuous on your neck and head, but it is recommended that you keep up with an exercise routine. There are plenty of exercises that are considered low-impact. There is swimming, and biking, walking, pilates, and a host of other exercises. Depending on the type of chiari you have and the degree in which it is, you may still be able to do things like jog or aerobics. Many people with chiari malformations are able to keep up with their normal, regular exercise routines.

People living with chiari malformations, however, should not use weights over fifteen pounds. This can put a strain on their neck and cause more problems. Light weights are okay, but you should not strain your neck.

When exercising, you should always pay close attention to your body. Listen to what your body is telling you and do not push it too hard. If you start to feel weak or dizzy, you should stop right away. Do not overexert yourself.

Talk to your doctor first, before starting any new workout regimen. She will know if your condition will allow you to do a more strenuous workout, or if you should keep it light. But no matter what your condition, you should always incorporate some kind of exercise into your life and daily routine.

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Hello, I'm 59 year old; I was operated of CM I three years ago. It seems that people who 've added coments were not.
I've been straining my neck for elementary yoga and pilates exercises without problems until now. When exercising my body don't tell me nothing about me being hard but I feel myself dizzy the day before to exercise. Thank you for the article and for the comments,

June 15, 2012 - 3:20am
EmpowHER Guest

Yes, bending over is a huge problem for me. It makes me suddenly dizzy and off balance. If I had to pick a problem related to my chiari that bothered me most, I would have to pick the dizziness and off-balance problems. It can make exercising hard some days, but when I don't exercise, I find that I can feel worse.

March 5, 2010 - 5:11am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for your article! I was diagnosed with CM 4 years ago, and at the time, could not find much information on it online. Lifting weights behind my back always made me uncomfortable before I knew what was going on. I might add that many affected by CM find that bending over, expecially quickly, can be difficult.

March 4, 2010 - 11:43pm

Yes, very interesting condition. I knew about it prior to me developing it...thinking I'd never have to deal with something like that. My aunt actually had this condition prior to me developing it, which was strange. She has a shunt too, and all for a different set of problems. Very strange deal for both of us to have similar problems, yet different. She had surgery for her chiari, and I have not yet. I hope to, though, with my brain sagging, they may not be able to operate for fear it may cause the sagging to worsen. So only time will tell. But the dizziness and balance issues are the most difficult of all the symptoms, to live with. So fingers crossed it will all work out how it is supposed to in the future.

Thanks for your comment.

March 1, 2010 - 8:48pm

I've never heard of this condition before- very eye-opening!

I hope your write some more about issues or precautions!

March 1, 2010 - 3:29pm

great artilce , but as with everything always check with your dr. before starting anykind of program

March 1, 2010 - 12:29pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.