Dizziness is a very prevalent condition that affects up to 30% of individuals over the age of 65. It is one of the most common reasons for visits to primary care providers and can be debilitating for the patient. Dizziness/vertigo is a wide umbrella in which symptoms can vary from mild to severe, transient to constant, spinning sensation to sense of imbalance and functional to home ridden. No matter the severity of symptoms, your dizziness is something that should be extensively worked up in order to determine a potential cause and appropriate treatment strategy.
Physical therapists with appropriate training in vestibular disorders (dizziness/imbalance) are an important piece to solving the dizziness puzzle. They are trained to extensively examine, evaluate and treat common vestibular disorders and work closely with other medical providers (primary care providers, ENTs, neurologists) to rule out serious pathology and determine the best course of treatment for each individual case.
Some common sources of dizziness and vertigo are listed below:
Benign Positional Paroxymal Vertigo (BPPV): this is one of the most common causes of episodic vertigo especially in the aging population. This condition is often described as severe spinning and nausea that lasts less than 60 seconds at a time. It is often worse when lying down in bed and rolling over. Many people report that these symptoms start after a fall, blow to the head or, in many cases, there is no direct cause at all. This condition occurs when small crystals in your inner ear called otoconia get dislodged. This condition is effectively treated in physical therapy using a technique called the Epley maneuver. This technique repositions the otoconia in the appropriate part of the inner ear to resolve symptoms. BPPV usually resolves in 1-3 visits.
Vestibular Hypofunction: There are 3 main systems that control your balance: your vision, your inner ear (vestibular system) and your proprioceptors (joint position sensors). Often, one or more of those systems aren’t working as hard as they should, which can result in a feeling of dizziness or imbalance. This is also commonly treated in physical therapy with specific exercise and neuromuscular re-education.