A recurring case of dizziness and a feeling like the room is spinning can be due to a number of causes. However, one common solution is found in vestibular rehabilitation with a physical therapist. Approximately 40% of people will experience vertigo at some point in their lives. Vertigo is described as feeling lightheaded, unsteady, whirling, spinning, or dizzy.
As a new diagnosis or symptom, vertigo is scary, and often leads people to seek emergency attention. What many don’t realize is that all of these symptoms can easily be treated by a physical therapist. Vertigo is a symptom, not a disease. There are multiple causes for it, but they all fall into four general categories that require different treatments. Once you’re diagnosed, your symptoms can be quickly resolved by our therapists at Pure Physical Therapy who specialize in vestibular rehabilitation.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
Accounting for 33 to 55% of vestibular diagnoses, BPPV is the most commonly reported cause of vertigo. BPPV is characterized by brief periods of vertigo, or a room-spinning sensation, when you change the position of your head. It’s due to your head’s position relative to gravity, so it most commonly happens when:
- You roll over in bed
- Get in and out of bed
- Bend over
- Make quick head movements
The spinning sensation may be accompanied by an overall feeling of fatigue and nausea or vomiting. Studies show that head injuries cause 17% of BPPV cases and nerve damage accounts for 15%, but 50% of cases have no specific reason for the onset of symptoms.
There are three types of BPPV, with the most commonly diagnosed type occurring in the posterior canal. Our physical therapists can help distinguish the cause and the type of BPPV based on your health history and the results of positional testing. Once diagnosed, BPPV can be resolved typically within one to four treatments, with a physical therapist performing the correct maneuvers to help move the crystals out of the ear canal.
Due to inflammation, vertigo can also be caused by a one-sided weakness in your inner ears. This imbalance, known as vestibular hypofunction, causes an eye impairment because the eyes have trouble adapting after head movement. Vestibular hypofunction can also be caused by:
- Viral or bacterial infections that attack the nerve that connects to your inner ear
- Weakness in the structures of your inner ear due to aging
- Toxic reactions to medications
- Blood clots, tumors or brain injuries that impact the inner ear
With vestibular hypofunction, you might feel dizzy every time you move your head — like your eyes cannot keep up with your head movement. Other symptoms include poor balance, difficulty walking, blurry vision and nausea or vomiting. They may appear suddenly or gradually and can be accompanied by mild, one-sided hearing loss.
A physical therapist can do a full assessment of your visual system, gait and balance. They’ll also perform other activities to relieve symptoms and promote a faster recovery, including gaze exercises to improve the coordination of head and eye movements and balance and gait activities. These forms of vestibular rehabilitation are more effective than medication or general exercises.
Central Vestibular Loss
Brain injuries, tumors and conditions can also cause dizziness. Unlike problems in the inner ear, symptoms usually develop slowly. Symptoms may differ based on the location of the tumor or problem within the brain.
Central vestibular loss means there is an issue that stems from the brain. It’s caused by multiple sclerosis, neoplasms, traumatic brain injury, vascular disease or stroke. Our physical therapy treatments can help through gaze exercises and balance activities that help relieve the dizziness and vertigo.
Stress causes a lot of problems, vertigo included. Tightness in the shoulders and neck can bring on dizziness that is usually noticed with head movements or prolonged time in one position. This type of dizziness is accompanied by neck pain and headaches. Physical therapy treatments primarily aim to decrease tightness in the muscles and joints of the spine. Mobility and strength exercises can also help relieve symptoms.
Dizziness doesn’t mean you’re going crazy, or you have a medical emergency. Vestibular rehabilitation is a proven way to treat your vertigo, no matter the type or the cause. If these are issues you’ve been experiencing, visit a physical therapist with expertise in vestibular rehab to stop your head from spinning.