Do you ever feel dizzy?
Dizziness can occur for many reasons, from blood pressure to an inner ear issue. First, we need to make sure we are describing the symptoms the right way. Dizziness is a sense of lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness. If you feel like you or your surroundings are moving/spinning you are likely experiencing vertigo. If you feel unsteady, imbalanced, or slightly disoriented you are experiencing disequilibrium. Whether you have dizziness, vertigo, or disequilibrium you should always let your doctor know what is going on, as this is not normal.
What causes these sensations?
The body has three systems that interact to give the brain a sense of what is happening to your body: the visual system (eyes); the vestibular system (inner ear); and the somatosensory system (or sense of touch/the body). All the input from these systems are processed in the brain and our bodies naturally know how adjust to challenges to those systems. If you feel unsteady, your body will try to gain more information to help, such as reaching out to grab something stable for support or turning on the lights to help you see better. But when the inner ear is giving the wrong information, your body can’t compensate as easily so, you get dizzy, vertigo, or disequilibrium.
There are many different types of vertigo, depending on what is going on within the body. A doctor or physical therapist trained to treat vertigo can perform a variety of tests to find out what kind of vertigo you are having and recommend a treatment to help you feel better. Some types of vertigo are related to different positions, so people get dizzy rolling over, bending forward, or leaning back in a chair at the hairdresser/dentist. This kind of vertigo is called Benign Paroxysymal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. It happens when little crystals inside the inner ear shift into the canals where they don’t belong. It can cause a very intense spinning sensation during those positional changes. A physical therapist can help move you through different positions to put the crystals back where they belong. There are many other types of issues with the inner ear, such as an imbalance in the messages being sent from one side versus the other, or a general decrease in function of the inner ear on both sides, which require different treatment.
Some people develop dizziness due to other medical issues such as a concussion, infection, or issues in the brain itself. These types of issues may require a more structured program of exercises to help the brain and inner ear work well together again.
What should I do?
So, whether you are having dizziness, vertigo, or just general balance issues you should talk to your doctor or physical therapist, they can recommend a plan of action and care. If physical therapy is appropriate for what you are experiencing, it can make a big impact on your daily function. Contact your doctor or physical therapist and schedule a screening appointment today so you can get your life back to normal.
Dr. Pamela Berner, PT, DPT