There are many causes of dizziness and imbalance. There are three components that help us maintain our balance throughout our daily activities which include our vision, sensation and the vestibular system. The Vestibular system includes parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements during all activities. When a problem occurs within the vestibular system it results in symptoms of vertigo. Vertigo is a sense of rotation, rocking or spinning when someone is perfectly still. Vertigo of peripheral (inner ear) and central (brain) origin can be addressed by a physical therapist. Specific treatments will depend on the cause of the vertigo, but can include head and neck maneuvers or other exercises to help eliminate your symptoms.
One of the most common causes of vertigo that physical therapists treat is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV occurs when the small calcium crystals normally found within the inner become displaced leading to irritation to the small hair cells within the inner ear canals leading to an inappropriate communication within the vestibular system resulting in symptoms of vertigo. When the calcium crystals are displaced within the inner ear canals normal movements such as looking upward, downward, side to side or rolling over in bed can result in dizziness, spinning, nausea, and difficulty walking.
Treatment for vestibular conditions may involve repositioning maneuvers in the case of BPPV and habituation/adaptation exercises and balance exercises are usually required in cases of inner ear weakness or central vertigo disorders. The main goal of therapy is to eliminate or reduce your symptoms of vertigo to improve safety and confidence as you return to daily and recreational activities.
Non-vestibular causes of dizziness and imbalance:
Dizziness can be linked to a multitude of problems and is commonly linked to blood flow irregularities from cardiovascular conditions. It is important to follow up with your primary care physician when experiencing symptoms of dizziness. Non-vestibular causes of dizziness may include the following:
Side effects of medications
Orthostatic Hypotension (decreased blood pressure when changing positions)
Stress, Tension & Fatigue
Vision Disturbances (bifocals, cataracts)
Central nervous system conditions (ex. Stroke, aneurysm, tumor)
Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and other cardiac conditions
Neck Arthritis (vertebral basilar insufficiency)
Chronic conditions (ex. Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson Disease)
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