Vertigo treatment is one of our Areas of Specialty. For those who suffer from vertigo symptoms, finding relief is critical to reclaiming independence and confidence in their abilities. Optivus Physical Therapist, Ashlee Harriman, specializes in Vestibular Rehabilitation, which aims to help patients improve balance and reduce dizziness and the problems associated with it (Cleveland Clinic). We worked with Ashlee to gather important information regarding what causes the vestibular issue of vertigo, or dizziness, and how physical therapy is used to treat it.

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Where Dizziness Comes From

Several different catalysts can cause dizziness, ranging from medications, changes in blood pressure, neck pain and headaches, or the inner ear. When it comes to vertigo, we typically look at the inner ear as our culprit. If you are diagnosed with vertigo due to an inner ear injury/malfunction that is causing a false sense of motion or a spinning sensation, you will likely be referred to a Physical Therapist for treatment.

Causes & Treatment for Vertigo

The main type of vertigo is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (“BPPV”), or positional vertigo.  This type of vertigo is position related due to the crystals of the inner ear being misplaced within the inner ear canals. Every time you move a certain way, the crystals move within the canal and cause you to be dizzy.

If you have had a sudden onset of dizziness or a spinning sensation that occurs with sudden movements, you may have BPPV. Some of the most common complaints include rolling over in bed, getting up from bed in the morning, looking up, or turning your head suddenly. People with BPPV may have nausea, and even vomiting associated with this. The symptoms tend to last less than a minute at a time and subside if the person remains still without any head movement.

Some common causes of BPPV include changes due to aging, genetics, head trauma, and osteopenia. This can also be something that can re-occur if you have a history of it.

Physical therapy intervention is highly effective for this type of vestibular dysfunction. There are positional maneuvers your physical therapist can perform with you to assist in relocating those crystals to their appropriate location, which can abolish the dizziness. Often BPPV is treatable within 5 sessions or less. If someone has lingering symptoms, physical therapy treatment could be 1-2 months. This is dependent on the severity of the symptoms and the person’s response and compliance with their exercise program.

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Physical Therapy Beyond Vertigo/BPPV

Physical therapy has many other tools that can be utilized for vestibular dysfunction beyond vertigo and/or BPPV treatment. Even when the initial cause of vertigo has been resolved, people can still have lingering effects that cause them to feel “imbalanced” or “off.” This can also be addressed with physical therapy exercises.

Because of vertigo, the vestibular system has been weakened. The vestibular system can be strengthened with specific exercises, just like a muscle can be strengthened. These specific exercises are known as vestibular adaptation and/or vestibular habituation. When a Physical Therapist prescribes balance exercises, it is important to know that you may experience symptoms occasionally when you perform them. This is normal and is actually the desired result because when you intermittently experience your symptoms in a controlled environment, then your body can respond and adapt to further strengthen that system. The more your body is able to adapt to its experience of these symptoms, the less and less the symptoms will occur. You can compare this to, the more repetitions you can do of an exercise, the stronger the muscle will get, and the easier a certain task will become.

If you or a loved one are suffering from vertigo symptoms or BPPV, please reach out to us today to schedule your first appointment. A referral is not needed unless it is required by your insurance company.