Thursday, August 23, 2018 Written by Jackie Lake, Physical Therapist

How to Help Vertigo

As published in the Public Opinion on August 22. 

Have you ever rolled over in bed or tipped your head back and felt like the room was spinning?  Then you probably experienced a common form of dizziness called vertigo. Vertigo is defined as a false sense of movement or spinning.  However, it may also include symptoms of weakness, lightheadedness, disorientation or feeling off balance.  Symptoms may last a few seconds to minutes.  Some individuals experience nausea and vomiting, while others may find it difficult to carry on daily activities or be a fall risk.

The most common form of vertigo is called BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.    While BPPV may be caused by an inner ear problem, stroke, concussion, or cardiovascular issue, often it comes on with no known cause.  BPPV can be successfully treated in physical therapy with repositioning maneuvers often in 1-2 visits.  While some people may attempt to treat this condition on their own, it is important to see a trained provider who can identify which repositioning maneuver is most appropriate based on careful evaluation and individualized treatment.

How does this all work?  The inner ear and the brain work together to help us maintain our sense of balance.  When we move or change head positions, fluid shifts within three small canals in the inner ear.  Outside of these canals, there are ducts and sacs which are lined with specialized nerve cells as well as calcium carbonate crystals.  Sometimes, these crystals break loose and make their way into the canals.  When this happens, it disrupts the normal fluid movement in the canals and sends false signals to the brain telling your brain that you are moving when you are not.  The repositioning maneuvers for BPPV can successfully remove these crystals from the canals to prevent that false sense of movement from happening.

Sometimes other underlying deficits such as impaired balance, motion intolerance and/or visual dysfunction may need to be addressed with further vestibular rehabilitation.  Vestibular rehabilitation is a research-based program which consists of exercises or protocols to reduce dizziness, improve balance or intolerance to motion.  Your inner ear, eyes and brain work together to maintain our sense of balance and upright posture.  According to a July 2018 study in the Journal of Audiology and Otology, addition of vestibular rehabilitation exercises can aid in reducing the recurrence rate of BPPV.  Prairie Lakes Physical Therapists have received specialized training and certification in treating individuals with vertigo and vestibular disorders. 

Vertigo, dizziness and falls are common complaints of older adults.  However, help is available. 

Feeling dizzy?

Our team offers vestibular rehab for vertigo and dizziness. Call 605-882-7700.