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George Launchbury

Inversion and bloodshot eyes

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George Launchbury

Hi everyone,

Although I feel like a teenager saying this: I have a friend who asked me for some advice... :)

Mostly wondered really if anyone has come across this before, especially if it might be a health risk! Be especially careful with spines, knees and/or eyes, I always say!

When doing sessions of Handstands and HSPUs, He has problems with feeling pressure in his head/eyes and getting really bloodshot (on occasions actual blood under eyelid). He's 30, 5'7'' (I think) and in good health and good shape. He doesn't smoke and drinks occasionally, eating mostly Paleo, but with Dairy and occasional grains. Plenty of good fat and protein. He is (as am I) new to gymnastic style training.

In his words:

...also feeling a bit frustrated with HS as they make my eyes and head hurt and I am getting very bloodshot eyes. not just a bit pink all over, but actual pockets around the pinky bits under the eyelids with real red blood in them. i thought i had been doing enough for that to stop by now.

I asked him for some additional details to help clarify:

blood pressure: checked a few months ago when joined local GP. was 120 over 80 ( i think) which the nurse tells me is perfect and the official standard of what it should be. (i wasn't doing a handstand when she took it though).

[been doing them] since we started, about 3-4 weeks ago I suppose, I have done handstands most days. normally a few sessions per day and generally only for a minute at a time. i will do a handstand against a wall, maybe try a balance and maybe a few HSPUs, but nothing major. if i feeling strong i might do as many as ten HSPU in one sitting (with 30ish seconds between sets of 3, 2 or 1). a session would not last longer than about two mins including rests at most.

most consecutive hspu i managed was about 5 or 6 once, against wall. normally no more than 3.

the eyes still feel like bursting when not doing hspu. only need to be upside down for 20 - 30 secs. made a bit worse by hspu. same applies to hanging...

I know that it can take time for some people to adjust to excercising while inverted (although not sure how much) and I would have thought that he (like me) might have seen some improvement by now. I also asked if he held his breath while doing them, and he answered that his breathing was pretty much inline with any other exercise with a similar level of exertion (i.e. not freely, but not held either).

Thanks for your time,

George.

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Paul

I should think if your friends eyes are getting that bloodshot from being inverted then they would be advised to stop doing stuff like handstands or hspu's where blood pressure will automatically increase just from being inverted. I'm sure a trip to their doctor for advice would be the best thing and tell them what's happening. Could be a sign of weak blood vessels in the eyes which could also be a sign of weak blood vessels elsewhere in the head. If that was the case then that much pressure from being inverted could theoretically cause a stroke. Better to be safe than sorry.

Paul.

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Coach Sommer

Extreme Redness in Face & Eyes from Handstands

For your friend to be having such a severe reaction is quite unusual, and something that I have not encountered in this degree before. What especially concerns me is that he also has the reaction while hanging upright. Or perhaps I am misunderstanding and he is hanging inverted?

To be having such a severe reaction to handstand training, I assume that he is coming to physical training with a very low level of conditioning. Or perhaps, as you already surmised, he may be straining too hard and attempting to achieve too much too soon. 20-30 seconds at a time intellectually seems reasonable, however physiologically his body is disagreeing with him.

If I have been remiss and not attended to handstand training for some time, I also have a tendency to turn somewhat red in the face from prolonged handstands (although admittedly nothing to the degree with which your friend has been dealing). I have found that a few days of

training at a very comfortable, almost gentle, intensity is usually enough to recondition my capillary system.

Remember that, as a non-gymnast, your cardio vascular system is not yet accustomed to operating in an inverted position and will need some time to adapt. I would recommend that your friend greatly reduce his intensity and give his body a chance to gradually strengthen to meet the new demands which he is placing on it. Suggest to your friend that he take one to two weeks off from all handstand work, and then begin with a single set of 3-5 seconds against the wall. He should do nothing beyond that single set and see how his body reacts over the course of the next few days. If it is fine, with no adverse reactions, then we will discuss ways to progressively proceed forward. If not, while we may never know the reason, in my opinion handstand work is simply out of the question for your friend.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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George Launchbury

Thanks Coach Sommer,

I have passed your advice along. Upon finding out that it was such an extreme reaction, I had also advised that maybe laying off for a while until there is a little more information would be a good idea.

My question to him about hanging (it was inverted, my bad) was mainly to ascertain the difference in effort levels while inverted. I would consider him to have a good level of general conditioning, but would also class him as someone who doesn't give up on things (even if they should) simply because of physical discomfort ...or, it seems, blood coming out of his eyes :)

Possibly the problem is that he is quite strong already, and hasn't had to take it easy as I have because of relatively weak wrists. I guess it's a little like overtraining his vascular system ...it's not had chance to make any positive improvements from the stimulus??

Something else he reminded me, since his email, was that a great proportion of his muscle-mass is in his legs. I don't know if that would have any bearing on this issue, because there is a lot more blood pooled in the lower body that rushes toward the head?

I agree that the most likely reason is lack of vascular conditioning. A body is only strong as it's weakest link. I will keep tabs on his findings from your recommendations, and post back when I have more information. Hopefully it will be good news. If not, then it's good that it was recognised before it became serious.

Cheers,

George.

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George Launchbury

Hi Paul,

Oops ...thanks to you too. I missed your post as I clicked the "go to latest post" icon, and only just noticed it whilst scrolling down to check my reply to Coach Sommer! I have passed on your advice also, to further underline the possible dangers.

Cheers,

George.

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George Launchbury

Hi everyone,

Suggest to your friend that he take one to two weeks off from all handstand work, and then begin with a single set of 3-5 seconds against the wall. He should do nothing beyond that single set and see how his body reacts over the course of the next few days. If it is fine, with no adverse reactions, then we will discuss ways to progressively proceed forward.

I have news that his eyes have cleared up AOK, and that there have been no adverse reaction to the RXd 5 second handstand against wall. I wondered if anyone (although ideally Coach Sommer) could shed some light on ways to proceed safely?

I imagine it (obviously) involves taking it easy, but it would be nice to have an informed idea of what 'easy' might be in this case, and how the vascular system responds to stimulus. I.e. doing a 3 second handstand morning, noon and night each day might be one approach, as might doing one handstand every day (or two, three, four days) while adding a few seconds to the duration each time.

Ultimately he wants to get back to HSPUs again, so it would be nice if there were some consideration toward that as well, however (as always) all advice is graciously accepted!

Thanks,

George.

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Coach Sommer

As we have been successful so far with minimum volume and a short duration handstand, for now we will simply focus on increasing weekly volume, but maintain the same short duration on the static hold. Have your friend attempt a daily 3-5 second handstand for several days in a row (2-3 days) and then take a break of a day or two. Then build up to 3-4 days in a row, followed by one to two days off. Finally if all has gone well, he may proceed to 4-5 days in a row, followed by the weekend off.

If he completes this progression successfully, I will re-evaluate his program at that time.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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George Launchbury

Coach Sommer,

I will pass the information on, and attempt to stop him from overdoing it this time!

Thanks again for all your help with this matter.

Regards,

George.

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