If you suffer from vertigo, you know how difficult even the simplest of day-to-day tasks can be. That feeling of dizziness and lack of balance can really impact your life–but there are ways to treat vertigo and help reduce some of the symptoms…including physical therapy!
What Is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a sensation (not a disease) that makes you feel like the world around you is spinning in circles. Vertigo can make you dizzy and lose balance–many people compare it to motion sickness, in which you feel like you’re rocking back and forth, tilting, or spinning. Often, these feelings intensify when you stand up, change positions, walk, or move your head. These “attacks” can last anywhere from seconds to several minutes; severe cases, however, can last much longer–days, weeks, or even months. Fortunately, vertigo is not considered a serious condition. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately 40% of Americans experience vertigo at least once during their lifetime. Vertigo, while not serious, should be closely monitored as it can be linked to potentially serious health conditions. If your vertigo is constant or repeating, see your doctor immediately.
There are two types of vertigo:
- Peripheral vertigo occurs when there’s an issue with the inner ear, which affects balance.
- Central vertigo is potentially more problematic, as it’s associated with an issue in the brain, such as a tumor, traumatic brain injury, infection, or stroke.
It’s easy to confuse dizziness with vertigo, but they are different conditions. Dizziness is the overall feeling of being unbalanced, whereas vertigo gives you the sensation that you’re moving or that your surroundings are spinning. One of the more common types of vertigo is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), which is an inner-ear issue that occurs when the head moves in different positions and causes dizziness. BPPV affects the vestibular system, the system in the inner ear that maintains balance, and is fairly common–it affects around 9% of older adults.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do for Vertigo?
Before starting any type of therapy or treatment, a physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation to confirm vertigo. If you visit us at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, we can help you identify possible factors and even patterns that are contributing to your episodes of vertigo. From there, our physical therapists will create a personalized treatment program to treat those symptoms with a range of stretches, maneuvers, exercises, and manual therapy techniques.
For example, we can try to simulate the types of movements that would trigger the vertigo symptoms to confirm whether you’re suffering from BPPV or another type of condition. Through certain types of head movements, we can usually determine what is causing the vertigo and develop a treatment plan. In fact, there’s one specific method that works wonders with our clients with BPPV–it’s called the Epley Maneuver.
This technique helps reposition small crystals in the inner ear–these crystals stimulate signals to the brain to help define direction so we can orient ourselves. If one of these crystals become displaced or loose, it can cause disruption of ear fluid, which creates a false sense of movement that can present itself as dizziness. The Epley Maneuver moves these crystals back into place within the inner ear so they don’t stimulate the nerve endings and therefore cause dizziness and similar symptoms. This tends to be very effective at treating the vertigo symptoms and may sometimes only require a session or two. Aside from the Epley Maneuver, your physical therapist may also use and suggest other types of therapeutic exercises designed to reduce the symptoms. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a technique designed to expedite the process of compensating for a damaged balance center. VRT uses exercise to aid the body in understanding how to use its other systems to correct balance issues. This is often successful in treating vertigo.
Can PT Make Vertigo Worse?
This is a common–but fair–question. Of course, people suffering from vertigo would want to know if any type of treatment could make the symptoms even worse. Physical therapy for vertigo, which can include the Epley Maneuverlog and/or VRT, is generally very effective. But one thing to keep in mind is that PT is usually not a one-and-done deal–it often takes time for the body to adapt. In the case of vertigo, symptoms can feel like they’re worsening for a brief period of time as the body learns new ways to balance itself (especially if VRT is being used).
However, after some PT, the brain will adapt and create new connections that make learning how to balance again easier. At-home exercises are the best way to continue your physical therapy vertigo treatment. These could include assisted walking, practicing maneuvers, and assisted head movement.
Physical Therapy in Irving, Texas for Vertigo
Don’t let vertigo take over your life. Come see us at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, and we’ll get to work right away evaluating your symptoms and formulating a plan that’s just right for you. This could involve Epley Maneuver sessions in our state-of-the-art facility or VRT therapy that we begin at our Irving location and you continue at home. Call us today at (214) 225-0291 to schedule your initial appointment.