Dizziness and vertigo are among common complaints presented in doctor’s offices. In fact, dizziness is the #1 complaint of persons over the age of 70 and the #3 complaint for ALL age groups, behind headache and low back pain. If you suffer with dizziness, you are not alone!
Dizziness and vertigo are not the same. “Dizziness” is an internal sense of feeling “off”. “Vertigo” is an external sensation that the world is “spinning” around you. Regardless of differences, their occurrence is a leading cause of falls, fractures, and immobility. Problems with medication, blood pressure and disease processes, like diabetes, may contribute to symptoms. In as many as 85% of cases, however, these complaints are related to deficiencies of our vestibular system. So, the question is, “Can anything be done?”.
The most common cause of vertigo, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or “BPPV”, results from the displacement of tiny crystals, called “otoconia”, within the semicircular canals of the inner ear. Most typically, the person experiencing BPPV will report a sudden onset of vertigo that lasts merely a few seconds, with movement like turning over in bed. Untreated, the person restricts motion and avoids provoking positions. This places limitations on their lifestyle and function. BPPV is efficiently treated with a gentle maneuver called “canalith repositioning”. It is performed by a doctor or physical therapist trained in the technique. Complete relief is usually achieved in one visit!
Dizziness is often the result of conflict between the systems that help us to stay upright. To feel and move normally, three systems in our body must work harmoniously – our visual, proprioceptive and vestibular systems. The information obtained by them is transmitted to and processed by our brain. If we think of these systems positioned in a tripod formation, when one or more legs are damaged, conflict is created that the brain struggles to interpret. That conflict can cause dizziness!
Upon examination, the patient reporting dizziness of vestibular origin often displays “oscillopsia”. Oscillopsia results due a problem with the “vestibular-ocular reflex” (VOR). The VOR is responsible for stabilizing our eyes during head movement. If you turn your head in one direction while focusing on an object, the eyes should move in the opposite direction at a matching speed. When this is impaired, it is a major contributor to dizziness complaints.
Vestibular rehabilitation (VR) is used to address this form of dizziness and symptoms typically improve in four to six weeks. Treatment is based on the concept that the brain needs to be shown what it isn’t processing correctly. A vestibular trained therapist constructs a program incorporating challenges with head turns, surface changes and varying visual conditions. The program begins under very stable and slower conditions and then advances toward unstable and faster conditions. By showing the brain the problem in a systematic, safe way, it can make the necessary adjustments and symptoms are reduced or eliminated.
If you’re dizzy, you are not alone - something can be done. Vestibular rehabilitation is the gold standard to address your symptoms! For more information visit http://cptrehab.net/index.php/services/detail/physical-therapy/balance-vestibular-treatment or http://www.dizzy.com.