Dizziness is a frustrating, and often debilitating symptom. Sometimes it is difficult to determine the cause of dizziness because there are many factors that could cause it. If you are experiencing dizziness, it is important to see a healthcare provider to rule out serious medical conditions such as a brain tumor or a stroke, as well as underlying causes such as medication side effects or dehydration. Due to the number of things that can cause dizziness, though, it is often difficult to know what kind of provider to see. If you are wondering where to begin when looking for answers, did you know that physical therapists can help to evaluate your dizziness? Not only that, but depending on the cause of your dizziness, a physical therapist may even be able to help you treat it!
While all physical therapists receive some education in school about dizziness, some physical therapists have a special interest in vestibular therapy; these therapists have received more education regarding the treatment of dizziness and balance problems. Vestibular therapy focuses on evaluation and treatment of the vestibular system. The vestibular system is a balance system located in your inner ear; it is a sensory system that takes in information about where your head and body are in space and helps to stabilize your eyes so that it doesn’t look like everything is bouncing when your body is moving. It is a miraculous system when it is working correctly, but if this system becomes dysfunctional for any reason, it can cause some really bizarre symptoms like loss of balance, blurred vision, a spinning sensation, dizziness, or even nausea.
One cause of dizziness due to dysfunction of the vestibular system is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. This condition is very common, but can make you very miserable. There are small crystals located in your inner ear called otoconia that can break loose and start floating around in the canals in your inner ear. This causes your vestibular system to think that your head is still moving even after it has actually stopped moving, and can cause significant dizziness and even sometimes nausea and vomiting with movements in certain directions, such as rolling to in bed or turning your head to check your blind spot. The good news is that this condition is very easily corrected. Your physical therapist will talk with you about your symptoms and do some simple tests to see if this is the cause of your dizziness. If it is, your therapist can help you to perform a maneuver of your head and body to get the loose otoconia out of your ear canal and stop the dizziness. It may only take one to two visits to a physical therapist for symptoms to completely resolve, and many patients feel immediate relief when the correct maneuver is performed.