I've been treating a different woman who also has Disembarkment Syndrome (Mal de Disembarquement Syndrome - MdDS) (a specific type of vertigo).  After approximately a month of treatment, her symptoms were about 50% improved. Then, as she was driving in the mountains, a deer jumped out from seemingly nowhere and it ran into the drivers' side of her car! She didn't seem to have symptoms from the car accident. But, 7 days later the symptoms of the vertigo were worse again. Sure enough, an exam revealed that her brain was injured from the whiplash in the accident. I'm optimistic that she will be well again soon.

Please know that all car accidents above 6mph cause neurological problems. Just because a person is symptom free within a couple days of an auto accident does NOT mean they were not injured.

Her young daughter was also in the car. She too, was injured. I'm happy to say that it's only been a month of treatment for her daughter and she is almost pre-accident status.  I wish my mother had known to bring me to a functional neurologist when I had a devastating car accident when I was 7 years old.  This is what triggered my scoliosis.  Get checked!

There are 3 areas in your head that must integrate so a person can feel balanced.   When one of these areas does not work well, sometimes people have vertigo.  Other times, people have the sense that they are on a boat when they are on unmoving land.  This condition is called Mal de DeBarquement Syndrome or Disembarkment Syndrome.  Yes, the term for 'getting off of a boat' syndrome.  As one patient said, "I cry every day."  This can be debilitating and ruins lives.

The first area to evaluate is the visual system.  If vision is fine, then we move on to the next potential problem area. The second area is the inner ear, which houses the semi-circular canals.  These canals send information to the brain about direction, change in direction and speed of movement.  Sometimes an infection is the culprit here.  However, once the infection clears up, the symptoms should resolve quickly.  The third area which must integrate these other 2 areas is the cerebellum.

The cerebellum does many things, including receiving information about where the body is in space (proprioception).  It then integrates your body, head and eye movements to make you feel stable.

I've treated many patients with vertigo and have had the pleasure to examine 3 people with MdDS.  In all but one of these patients (one did have an inner ear infection), the cerebellum was the culprit.  The cerebellum should have equal signals in and out.  When there is a physiological asymmetry of signals, people have vertiginous symptoms.  All patients whom I have treated have felt improvement within 3 weeks, the amount of time it takes for neurons to grow and make connections.  Making neuroplastic changes in the deficient side of the cerebellum is the goal.  There are many modalities that can be used to do this, including optokinetic work and vibration.  However, an examination is necessary to determine the fatiguability of the cells in the cerebellum and which side is the problem.  People are not usually fixed within 3 weeks, but it is a great start.  Neuroplasticity takes time and the new connections need to be nurtured.  Treatment as well as homework is recommended.

I recommend finding a doctor who holds a Diplomate in Neurology Degree, DACNB, in your area.  Or, call me...425-802-4501.  Yours in health,  Dr. Merry Harris


The first time I heard of this disorder, I was confused.  The doctor kept saying, "You know, dis-embarkment, like getting off of a boat!".  Ok, now it made sense.  Some people feel like they are on a boat when they are sitting, standing and/or walking.  I examined a man with disembarkment syndrome the first time about 20 years ago, but I didn't know what to call his condition.  I recently saw a different man with this syndrome.  He said he was looking at his device while on an airplane for about 45 minutes.  When he turned it off, he felt terribly sick and nauseated.  When he got off the plane, he said he felt like he was walking on 6 foot waves.  He said it had been this way for years!  In the examination, I found a severe one sided cerebellar deficit, which we started to change right away.  Unfortunately, this man did not continue with the treatment plan.  However, he was about 50% improved after approximately 2 months of treatment.  I also gave him homework so the neurological changes we made would continue to be stable.

Vertigo? Did you know that vertigo, dizziness, BPPV, nausea, disembarkment syndrome and other abnormal 'tipsy' feelings are based in the same 3 areas of the brain? The 3 areas are the visual system, the cerebellum and the vestibular system. These 3 systems need to work together for a person to have balance and be able to resist gravity (walk) without feeling strange. In most cases, these disorders have to do with the cerebellum firing at different frequencies on one side compared to the other. This is not difficult to determine during an examination. If the cerebellum is the cause, usually the symptoms improve within 3 weeks and can oftentimes be cured within several months. This can be done by creating neuroplastic changes in the part of the brain that is weak. If the problem is in the vestibular system in the inner ear, the cause could be varied. For example, it could be due to an ear infection or injury to the head or ears. Some good news is that the other 2 systems, the cerebellum and visual systems, can adapt to many physical problems in the inner ear so people can have good function even if there is a vestibular problem.