People often use the word “dizziness” when talking about a variety of symptoms. It is important for you to be able to differentiate between these symptoms, because the cause, diagnosis and treatment cn be quite different. Dizziness is a sensation of lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness. Unlike dizziness, vertigo has a rotational, spinning component, and is the perception of movement, either of the self or surrounding objects.
Vertigo is often caused by an inner ear problem. One common cause is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This occurs when tiny particles of calcium form in canals of the inner ear. The inner ear sends signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity. With this move of crystals from one area to another, the inner ear tells the brain you’re moving when you are really not.
Physical therapists can perform specific testes to determine if you have BPPV and will guide the treatment. One such test includes examination of the eyes for nystagmus, an involuntary rapid eye movement. If BPPV is found, the patient is guided through a repositioning treatment involving the head and neck called the Eppley maneuver. The PT will guide you through a series of position changes designed to relocate the crystals to their appropriate area in the inner ear. With treatment, symptoms should significantly decrease or completely resolve.
Physical therapy can play a strong role in recovery of symptoms. Treatment would involve an exercise-based program to improve balance and reduce symptoms related to dizziness. Specifically, treatment would include:
● visual stabilization training
● postural education
● balance training
● cervical mobility and stretching
Expected outcomes from treatment include decreased risk of falls, improvement in balance, improved ability to stabilize vision, an increase in cervical mobility, and a return to prior level of function.