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What is Vertigo and How Your Physiotherapist Can Help

By April 1, 2020Physiotherapy

For those who suffer from vertigo, the feeling of the world spinning almost constantly, and the disorientation associated with it can be temporarily debilitating. However, there are ways to help ease the symptoms and fight back against vertigo in general.

Vertigo vs Dizziness

Often, vertigo and dizziness are confused or mistaken for the same ailment. However, vertigo is a much more sustained ailment than short periods of dizziness. Those who suffer vertigo will feel the world spinning if they are sitting, standing, or moving around. Nausea and vomiting are common and the only way many people feel better is when they are laying down.

While dizziness is a general term that describes sensations of lightheadedness or disorientation, vertigo is more easily described as a sensation of an entire room or environment spinning. Vertigo is likely cause by any of the following:

  • Vestibular (inner ear) disorders including neuritis or labyrinthitis
  • Reduced blood flow to the brain
  • Cervicogenic (neck) issues
  • Concussion or brain injuries
  • Certain medications
  • Aging
  • Stroke

If your dizziness or vertigo is triggered or made worse by quick movements, it’s highly likely that the issue is a vestibular or inner ear issue and will require further investigation.

How Physiotherapists Can Help

When suffering from vertigo, your first thought may not be a physiotherapist. However, physiotherapists are specifically trained to treat vestibular ailments and are skilled at treating vestibular problems via vestibular rehabilitation.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step, however. Your physiotherapist will:

  • Take time to determine the type of vertigo by looking at your history
  • Screen for conditions that may require a medical follow-up
  • Assess your coordination
  • Test your balance
  • Examine your nervous system
  • Test your vestibular system (via eye and head movements)

A physiotherapist with specific skills in vestibular rehabilitation is able to conduct a comprehensive assessment, and, in many cases, is able to establish a cause for your symptoms. However, if they are unable to, they can refer you to a medical specialist that is capable of doing more extensive testing.

Should I be Worried if I am Diagnosed with Vertigo?

In most cases, vertigo is caused by a condition that is not serious. The symptoms themselves, however, can be quite debilitating and affect various aspects of everyday life, making many individuals who suffer from vertigo feel frustrated, anxious, and occasionally depressed. As vertigo can affect all aspects of daily life – from driving to computer use, it’s important to seek help. Seeing a physiotherapist will allow you to begin to treat the symptoms and help improve or resolve vertigo faster.

Treatment Options

Once diagnosed with a vestibular ailment, your physiotherapist can begin treatment using one or a combination of the following:

  • Exercises that target the vestibular system
  • Exercises that work on improving balance
  • Special repositioning maneuvers (these assist in unsticking crystals in the inner ear that assist with balance)
  • Continuously challenging the vestibular, visual and balance systems
  • Creating a home-based program of personalized vestibular exercises

Few of the exercises involved in treating vertigo are strenuous, and most get easier over time. However, commitment and determination are necessary to see progress and get results. Each case of vertigo is unique, and a physiotherapist will develop an exercise plan to meet an individual’s needs. Some exercises will need to be done alone, while others will need to be done under the supervision of the physiotherapist.

Often, with the assistance of a physiotherapist, individuals will begin to see improvement or resolution within 6-8 weeks.

If you are struggling with dizziness or are concerned you may have vertigo, talk to us. We can help assess your vestibular system and put a plan of action into place to help you start feeling better and to help ease symptoms that may be disrupting your life.