October is dysautonomia awareness month. What is dysautonomia? It is simply a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, which controls the automatic functions of the body such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, temperature control and digestion. People who experience dysautonomia have difficulty regulating these symptoms and experience lightheadedness, fainting, nausea, malnutrition, chronic fatigue, and abnormal heart rates. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is one form of dysautonomia.
POTS is a constellation of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, with the common link being autonomic nervous system dysfunction. It is estimated that POTS affects 1-3 million Americans and many more worldwide. It is most common in young females, who are often high achievers. Despite increased recognition and improved diagnostics, it often takes years to get a diagnosis. Part of this can be because the person often looks “healthy” on the outside, while internally their body is desperating fighting to regulate a dysfunctional system. POTS also presents with vague symptoms that can easily be misdiagnosed.
Common symptoms of POTS include: lightheadedness, fatigue, headache, fainting, nausea, poor digestion, temperature dysregulation, blood pooling, allergies, brain fog, light and sound sensitivity, tightness in the chest, heart palpitations, exercise intolerance, tingling, and pain.
POTS is most commonly diagnosed using a tilt table test where the patient is strapped onto a table and the head is elevated to 70 degrees. The patient is left there for up to 10 minutes while heart rate, blood pressure, and symptoms are monitored. POTS is diagnosed if the heart rate increased by 30 beats per minute in adults or 40 beats per minute in children/adolescents.
POTS is a syndrome and not a disease in itself and therefore treatment will need to be tailored to the individual to address underlying causes and conditions. Common treatment for POTS includes: increasing fluid and salt intake, wearing compression garments, participating in a customized exercise program, diet changes, and medications when necessary.
Working with a physical therapist familiar with POTS can be helpful to create a customized treatment approach that takes into account the complexities of orthostatic intolerance in order to improve your endurance and decrease your fatigue. At Intrinsic PT, we believe in a holistic approach to treating POTS and will address nervous system dysregulation, exercise intolerance, diet, and lifestyle modifications to help you successfully manage this condition.
Interested in learning more about how Intrinsic PT can help you manage your POTS? Schedule a free phone consult with us!