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Is Physical Therapy The Answer to Your Vertigo?

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is often thought of as a condition or diagnosis, which is a common misconception. Vertigo is a symptom rather than a diagnosis. Vertigo is a sensation of dizziness, imbalance, or “spinning” and can be dependent on various things depending on the origin. 

Vertigo may be what you’re experiencing, but what is causing it? 

Vertigo is typically the result of an inner ear disturbance to the Vestibular System. The Vestibular System is responsible for maintaining the body’s sense of equilibrium and spatial orientation. The vestibular system has canals in all planes of movement which contain fluid and hair-like sensors to detect the fluid movement. As movement occurs, the fluid is moved inversely and a signal is transmitted to the brain relaying the position change so that appropriate adjustments occur. When this system is malfunctioning, such as with a common condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), equilibrium is lost due to a disturbance in the fluid and vertigo is the result of the mixed signals being transmitted. Be aware, this is only one common example of many. Other conditions that may also contribute to vertigo include: migraines, abnormal blood pressure changes, hydration or nutrition status, inflammation within the inner ear, and central or peripheral lesions within the brain. As you can see, the contributing factors are expansive with varying severity. 

How can a Physical Therapist differentiate between all of these possibilities to determine my cause?

Physical therapists are skilled medical practitioners with extensive knowledge of all of the body’s systems. By listening to your subjective report (triggers, duration of symptom, time of occurrence, description of symptoms, etc.) and through various tests to aid in differentially diagnosing, a physical therapist is able to appropriately determine the origin of the vertigo and either treat the condition, as with most cases, or refer to the appropriate specialist in rare instances where further testing may be warranted. Physical therapy is a cost-effective route to identifying and addressing the cause when expensive testing and imaging may be unnecessary.

How does a Physical Therapist treat vertigo?

Once the underlying cause has been identified, an individualized plan of care is created to address your symptoms. Physical Therapists are skilled in treatment interventions to address the issue, which include repositioning maneuvers that typically elicit instant changes and positional or movement habituation exercises that train your body to manage the trigger more successfully, both key components of vestibular rehabilitation. With the vestibular system being the most common cause of vertigo, vestibular rehabilitation is a very successful and cost-effective treatment option if found to be the origin. 

Call Ross Medical Group Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy department at 305-279-7677 to schedule an appointment with one of our providers today. 

Author: Heath Bailey DPT 

Doctor of Physical Therapy 

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As you are all aware, we as a world and a nation are in the midst of a pandemic caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. This virus, affecting the entire country with more than 3000 cases to date, has now reached our immediate community of Miami-Dade County.