Vertigo usually is described as a spinning sensation, whereas dizziness usually is described as “lightheadedness.” Often, they have different causes and different treatments. Our physical therapists in Costa Mesa have extensive experience and success in diagnosing and treating our patients with vertigo.
If you have vertigo accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms, immediately call 911 or emergency medical services (EMS) so that an ambulance can be sent for you:
- Double vision
- Difficulty speaking
- A change in alertness
- Arm or leg weakness
- Inability to walk
What is vertigo?
Vertigo is the sensation of spinning—even when you’re perfectly still, you might feel like you’re moving or that the room is moving around you. Most causes of vertigo involve the inner ear (“vestibular system”). A number of conditions can produce vertigo, such as:
- Inner ear infections or disorders
- Tumors, such as acoustic neuroma
- Surgery that removes or injures the inner ear or its nerves
- Head injury that results in injury to the inner ears
- A hole in the inner ear
You also might have:
- Abnormal eye movements
One of the most common forms of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, an inner-ear problem that causes short periods of a spinning sensation when your head is moved in certain positions.
How can a physical therapist help?
Based on your physical therapist’s evaluation and your goals for recovery, the therapist will customize a treatment plan for you. The specific treatments will depend on the cause of your vertigo. Your therapist’s main focus is to help you get moving again and manage the vertigo at the same time. Treatment may include specialized head and neck movements or other exercises to help eliminate your symptoms. Conditions such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo have very specific tests and treatments.
If you have dizziness and balance problems after your vertigo has stopped, your physical therapist can develop a treatment plan that targets those problems. Your physical therapist will teach you strategies to help you cope with your symptoms:
- Do certain activities or chores around the house cause you to become dizzy? Your therapist will show you how to do those activities in a different way to help reduce the dizziness.
- Have simple activities become difficult and cause fatigue and more dizziness? Your therapist will help you work through these symptoms right away so you can get moving again and return to your roles at home and at work more quickly.
Physical therapy treatments for dizziness can take many forms. The type of exercise that your therapist designs for you will depend on your unique problems and might include:
- Exercises to improve your balance
- Exercises to help the brain “correct” differences between your inner ears
- Exercises to improve your ability to focus your eyes and vision
In addition, your physical therapist might prescribe exercises to improve your strength, your flexibility, and your heart health—with the goal of improving your overall physical health and well being.