How Physical Therapy Can Help Vertigo & Dizzness by Dr. Britta Orso Johnson

Have you ever been on a roller coaster and when you get your feet back on the ground, you feel like the world is moving or that you’re still on the ride? Imagine having that feeling off and on, or even all day long. That is the way most vertigo patients describe it. It is an unsteadiness or dizziness that typically occurs due to dysfunction within the inner ear. Vertigo is typically triggered by head movements. Most will describe it is as if the world or objects are spinning around them. They also may report that their eyes feel like they are jerking back and forth in their head, as well.

Common Causes for Vertigo and Dizziness

    • Inner ear problems
    • Neurological conditions
    • Medications
    • Psychiatric and Anxiety disorders
    • Low Iron levels
    • Low Blood Sugar
    • Overheating and dehydration

Vertigo Caused by Inner Ear Problems

For this blog, we are going to focus on inner ear problems. The inner ear is made up of two parts: the cochlea which is responsible for the hearing portion, and the semicircular canals which is responsible for the balance portion. Both are fluid filled cavities.

Patients who tend to experience vertigo can have a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo. Patients tend to describe it as a “brief but false sense that the world is spinning or moving,” and their vertigo is typically triggered by fast head movements. BPPV occurs in the fluid filled semicircular canals of the inner ear. When someone has BPPV, small microscopic particles that are housed inside the inner ear can become dislodged into these canals. These particles moving in the fluid of the inner ear is what creates the feeling of vertigo or unsteadiness. Other symptoms include feeling sick or vomiting and loss of balance.

Other Causes of Inner Ear Vertigo

    • Labyrinthitis (inner ear infection) – this can also result in hearing loss
    • Vestibular Neuritis – viral inflammation of the nerves that supply the balance portion of the inner ear. Can also result in hearing loss.
    • Meniere’s Disease
    • Migraines
    • Concussions

How Can Physical Therapy Help with Vertigo?

Treatment for vertigo depends on what the underlying cause of the condition is. If the patient has BPPV, it can most likely be managed in a short amount of therapy sessions with specific maneuvers performed by our vestibular certified therapists to reposition the microscopic particles back into their correct position. For those with Meniere’s Disease, Neuritis and Labyrinthitis, treatment would involve vestibular rehabilitation which involves challenging the patients balance and vestibular system to promote tolerance in positions that typically reproduce the patient’s symptoms.

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References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dizziness/symptoms-causes/syc-20371787

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/vertigo

https://med.uth.edu/orl/online-ear-disease-photo-book/chapter-3-ear-anatomy/ear-anatomy-inner

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https://mybwdoc.com

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