We all feel like life is spinning out of control at times, but if you have dizziness, that spinning feeling is for real. A physical therapist can help with many common forms of vertigo and dizziness. In this article, we’ll take a look at two examples of conditions that cause dizziness commonly treated by PTs.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (or BPPV) is the most common cause of vertigo, a false sensation of spinning. BPPV is a mechanical problem in your inner ear that causes a feeling of spinning with certain head positions or movements. BPPV is caused when some of the small crystals normally embedded in gel in your inner ear get dislodged and end up in the semicircular canals of your inner ear. These canals are filled with fluid and sense head motion. The crystals disrupt the normal function of the canal, which sends an abnormal signal to your brain. Your brain interprets this signal as head movement, even though your head is still, causing you to feel dizzy.
Your therapist can take you through a series of motions to determine which is the problem ear and which canal the crystals are in. After that a specific maneuver involving head motion allows gravity to pull the crystals out of the semicircular canal. Usually symptoms can be greatly improved in 1 to 3 treatments, but some patients continue to feel mild dizziness or sensitivity to head motions even after the crystals are removed from the canal. Your therapist can also evaluate this and prescribe home exercises to correct this problem.
This is a condition that causes dizziness, but is related to problems in the neck. This is a much more rare condition than BPPV, and does not cause a true spinning sensation. There is no specific test for cervicogenic dizziness, so it’s important to get a thorough evaluation from a qualified professional like a PT to rule out other problems that may be causing your dizziness.
In most cases the dizziness improves with treatment of the neck pathology alone using things like exercise, manual therapy, and education on proper posture. For the patients who don’t improve with treatment of the neck alone, adding vestibular rehabilitation often improves symptoms. Vestibular rehabilitation may include eye exercises, balance exercises, or graded exposure to what makes you dizzy.
Treatment of vertigo and dizziness is a specialized form of physical therapy that requires specific training. If you’re experiencing dizziness or vertigo, getting a full evaluation by a qualified PT is a great first step to stop yourself from spinning out of control. They can diagnose the specific cause of your dizziness and design a treatment plan to address it.