Many individuals confuse “vertigo” with “dizziness.” While there are similarities, vertigo is usually described as a spinning sensation, while dizziness is usually described as lightheadedness. Often, they have different causes and different treatments.
WHAT IS VERTIGO?
Vertigo is the sensation of spinning, even if you are not moving and you’re perfectly still. This can happen if you’re standing, sitting, or even lying down–you may feel like the room is moving about you. The primary cause of vertigo stems from the inner ear, known as our vestibular system. There are a number of factors that can cause vertigo, including:
- Inner ear infections/disorders
- Head injury, such as a concussion
- A hole in the inner ear
- Tumors (such as an acoustic neuroma)
- Migraine headaches
- Surgery that injures the inner ear or its nerves
- Abnormal eye movements
- When did the vertigo (spinning sensation) first start?
- What position(s) are you in when the spinning starts? (e.g., rolling over in bed, bending over to tie your shoes, turning to look over your shoulder, or even standing/sitting perfectly still).
- How long does the spinning sensation last? (e.g., seconds, minutes, or longer).
- Do you have ringing in the ears, hearing loss, or a feeling of “fullness” in your ears?
- Are you experiencing nausea with the spinning?
- Have you had vertigo before?
- Do you feel like your heart is racing, or you are noticing a change in your breathing pattern?
Your Physical Therapist will perform certain tests to try and recreate the symptoms of vertigo, as well as assess your risk of falling. Depending on the results, your Physical Therapist may recommend further testing or a consultation with your physician.
HOW CAN PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP TREAT VERTIGO CAUSED BY BPPV?
Based on the outcome of findings from your Physical Therapy evaluation and your goals for recovery, your Physical Therapist should customize a treatment plan specifically for you. The main focus of Physical Therapy treatment is to help you get moving again and to manage your symptoms at the same time. Treatment will most likely include specialized head and neck movements, gaze stabilization exercise designed to help your eyes and ears work together, and other exercises to help eliminate your symptoms. If you experience dizziness and balance problems after your vertigo has stopped, your Physical Therapist can develop a treatment plan and program that targets those problems. You should also be instructed in strategies to help you cope with your symptoms, such as certain activities or household chores that cause dizziness or fatigue.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT PHYSICAL THERAPY CAN ADDRESS?
- Exercises to help the brain “correct” differences in your inner ear
- Exercises to improve your ability to focus your eyes and vision
- Exercises to improve your balance
Your Physical Therapist will also, in addition to the above, most likely prescribe exercises to improve your strength, flexibility, and your heart health–with the overall goal being to improve your overall physical health and well being.
- Difficulty speaking
- Double vision
- A change in alertness
- Arm or leg weakness
- Inability to walk