Treatment for vertigo, imbalance, and dizziness due to vestibular dysfunction
The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.
Amusement park rides can be a fun way to spend time with kids and grandkids or they can be a dreadful experience if you become dizzy and nauseous easily. But imagine if you felt like you were on a ride while standing on stable ground? Or maybe you are afraid to leave your house for fear that people may think you’ve been drinking because you are so off balance. Dizziness is a debilitating medical condition that can affect the elderly as well as young people.
Dizziness and balance problems account for roughly 5-10% of doctor’s visits and affect up to 50% of all adults at some point in their life. In the elderly, these issues are related to an increased risk of falling.
The causes of dizziness are quite varied and require a medical assessment. Some of the causes are related to your vestibular system. Your vestibular system consists of your inner ear, your visual and proprioception system (ie. the system that lets you know where you are in space). When one or more of these components is not functioning as it should, this can create the feeling of dizziness. A physiotherapist with additional training in vestibular rehabilitation can assess the different components of your vestibular system to help determine which aspect may not be functioning properly. Depending on the problem they can treat with physiotherapy techniques or specific exercises or suggest that you continue in the medical system with further investigations.
One common disorder of the vestibular system is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV creates sensations of vertigo where the room seems to be spinning around you. It can also cause nausea, vomiting, loss of balance and difficulty with daily activities. Symptoms are usually brought on by position changes, such as getting up from bed, bending down, or looking up. BPPV can come on suddenly and can last for days, weeks or longer and can re-occur sporadically. BPPV is very treatable, through a series of movements that your physiotherapist will take you through.
Another common cause of dizziness is from cervicogenic causes, which means dizziness related to the neck or cervical spine. It is associated with neck pain, and people often find the dizziness increases when neck pain increases. Often people will experience headaches with cervicogenic dizziness. It can be caused by whiplash or neck injury but can also be related to posture and wear and tear of the joints in the spine. This can be assessed and treated with manual therapy and joint mobilizations by a physiotherapist.
There are other causes for dizziness, related to diseases or viruses that can affect the inner ear. These can lead to deficits of the vestibular system that people often learn to live with by avoiding the things that make them feel dizzy. These limitations can be helped! Treatment for these conditions includes balance exercises, vision exercises and often doing activities that you would rather avoid, in other words they are meant to make you dizzy. By not avoiding things that normally create dizziness you are forcing the vestibular system to adapt, and eventually it will!
BC Balance & Dizziness Disorders Society has an excellent website if you would like more details about certain conditions or are looking for a support group.