Downhill skiers have unwittingly helped ease a woman’s debilitating vertigo symptoms, finds Sandra Dick.

The swish of skis on crisp snow, the howl of the wind and the sight of glorious mountain scenery as it slides by; so thrilling that countless skiers have captured their run on video to share for others to enjoy.

And as the countdown starts to the ski season, many will be scrolling those YouTube ski films hoping to pick up tips and picturing themselves tackling black runs in Alpine conditions.

But what the skiers who upload their films could surely not imagine, is that their slide downhill has had a remarkable impact on helping to ease one woman’s debilitating vertigo symptoms.

Annie Scrimgeour was told by doctors to watch films of downhill skiers as an unusual form of therapy for a particularly troubling form of vertigo which had left her so unsteady on her feet that she could barely walk without tumbling over.

Her condition was so bad, that she had to quit her job and become a virtual recluse.

However, since watching countless ski videos her condition has vastly improved, while her knowledge of the sport has expanded so much that she could probably accurately follow the line of most of Europe’s major ski runs – handy if she knew how to ski.

“It was very distressing,” she says, recalling how her symptoms first emerged. “I was travelling to work in Edinburgh on the bus and started to feel dizzy.

“I got to the office and the whole room was spinning.”

She was originally diagnosed with labyrinthitis, an inner ear infection which is normally dealt with by medication and time. However, her case developed into a more troublesome condition, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV.

Although not necessarily serious in itself, BPPV leads to some sufferers experiencing such debilitating feelings of dizziness and unsteadiness that normal life becomes seriously curtailed.

“I was unable to leave the house, I was so dizzy all of the time,” recalls Annie, 49, who found travelling to work became impossible and simple tasks like shopping often led to her stumbling into displays.

“I couldn’t walk down the road, it was like being on a rollercoaster or the waltzer at the fair. It was very unpleasant, there was this sensation of falling and not walking on solid ground.

“Bright lights and patterned carpets in hotels are particularly bad – it’s like the floor is moving. You constantly feel anxious because you’re trying to protect yourself from falling.

“I used to constantly explain myself to people – I know what people are thinking was wrong.”

To help, balance specialists at Dundee’s Kings Cross Hospital carried out a series of physical manoeuvres intended to help reposition calcium carbonate crystals which had broken away from part of her inner ear, leading to the spinning sensation.

However, there was limited success which prompted other more unusual therapies, including laying cushions on the floor and attempting to step from one to the next without falling over, and another in which she sat in a dark room with a ‘disco’ glitter ball spinning overhead.

“I had to sit there while they watched to see how long it would take before I fell over,” she says.

When it was suggested she might rebalance her sight by logging on to downhill skiing videos – particularly ones filmed on Go-Pro cameras from the skier’s point of vision – she had undergone so many unusual therapies that it didn’t seem at all odd.

“My condition is visual-related – I can’t go to the cinema or watch fast-moving television adverts without feeling dizzy,” she says. “At the start, I could only watch 30 seconds of the skiing videos without feeling like I was going to fall off the chair.

“Eventually I built it up to two to three minutes, but it still creates a feeling that is really unpleasant.”

The videos, with their combination of bright, white snow and vivid colours together with sense of speed and movement as the skier tackles bends and bumps, encourages the viewer to focus their vision and helps retrain the brain to cope with distractions which can spark dizziness.

In Annie’s case, hours of watching skiing appear to have helped, however, doctors have warned her condition is so severe, that it could be life long.

And while it has significantly boosted her knowledge of the sport, she has no intention of ever taking to the slopes - particularly as simply walking can still be challenging enough.

Instead, she has turned the life-changing condition into a positive, by switching from a career as a communications consultant for an Edinburgh charity to launch her business. Parable Pod Counselling is thought to be Scotland’s first not-for-profit social enterprise counselling service, but because travelling is still so difficult, she runs works from a ‘pod’ in her Kinross garden.

“Having been through this period of ill health, I realise how valuable good health is and I want to give back to others who are also struggling,” she says.

“I’m 80% better than I was, but I still have to be mindful of basic things like crossing the road, or not turning my head too quickly.

“I had never watched any skiing before this happened,” she adds.

“I never realised there were so many skiing videos out there. I feel like I’ve watched every single one.”