Physical Therapy: Serious Help for Those Suffering Vertigo & Vestibular Disturbances
Get your balance—and your life—back
By Ben Wobker, PT, MSPT, CSCS, SFMAc
Humans love to be dizzy—think of the long waits to ride the world’s craziest roller coasters, or the way kids whirl around and around, arms outstretched. If you suffer from vertigo, however, dizziness is a dreaded symptom, not a thrilling experience. The world around you moves and spins. Even worse, you may have nausea, vomiting, sweating, or abnormal eye movements.
Fortunately, vertigo is highly treatable, and your physical therapist can help you feel better sooner rather than later.
How Are Vestibular Disorders Diagnosed?
To properly identify the cause of your vertigo and thus prescribe the best treatment, your physical therapist will ask you these questions listed on ChoosePT:
When did you first have vertigo (the feeling of spinning)?
What activities are you doing when you have vertigo? Examples include turning your head, bending over, standing still, or rolling in bed.
How long does your vertigo last (seconds, minutes, hours, days)?
Have you ever had vertigo before?
Do you have hearing loss, ringing, or fullness in your ears?
Are you nauseous when you feel the spinning sensation?
Have you had any changes in your heart rate or breathing?
Your PT, who should have specialized experience in treating people with vestibular and neurological problems, will also conduct some tests to determine what’s causing your vertigo and assess your risk of falling. If the physical therapist is unable to diagnose the cause for your symptoms, you may be referred to a specialist for further testing.
The Causes of Vertigo
“Vertigo is caused by an inner ear dysfunction or a problem with the vestibular system,” says Yvonne Francis, PT, MBA, CMLDT. “It can also be caused by tumors, migraines, people that have sustained strokes, traumatic brain injuries, and a hole in the ear.”
Research has found that inner ear (vestibular) disorders cause about 50% of all cases of vertigo and dizziness.
Dizzy No More—Treating Your Vertigo
Physical therapy is effective in treating vestibular disorders, which can include benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a viral infection of the inner ear (vestibular neuritis), and vestibular migraine. PT is especially well effective if moving triggers or worsens your vertigo symptoms. According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, PT treatment for vertigo includes:
Habituation exercises involve specific movements that actually make you feel dizzy to desensitize your vestibular system to those movements.
Eye-head coordination exercises help you focus better and feel less dizzy.
Balance and gait exercises “challenge” the vestibular balance system to make it stronger. These exercises improve your balance while walking.
Repositioning techniques are used specifically to treat BPPV and include the Epley maneuver. BPPV occurs when small calcium crystal (canalith) debris breaks loose in the inner ear. These particles can move into the wrong part of the inner ear, causing symptoms of vertigo. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Epley maneuver helps move the crystals back to their proper place, which relieves your symptoms. Often, all you need is one session of treatment with your PT to feel better.
On-Demand Physical Therapy and Vertigo
The symptoms of vertigo may make it unsafe to drive. With on-demand physical therapy, you can skip the hassles of a clinic visit and receive treatment from a certified physical therapist wherever it’s convenient for you. So if you’re a vertigo sufferer in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, or Seattle, contact Luna on-demand physical therapy. We’re here to serve you!
Vertigo is highly treatable and your PT can help you feel better sooner rather than later.