Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Yes! You can treat dizziness depending on the root cause.
Dizziness is a sensation that is created when there is a mismatch of information from one of our balance inputs. Balance is influenced through 3 components: 1) our vision, 2) our joint position sense, 3) and our vestibular system. Our vestibular system is composed of bony and membranous canals in both inner ears. It provides information on acceleration of our head relative to the world, meaning how fast we are moving. All three of these components are analyzed by our brain to make sense of the information they are providing.
If one or more of the three components of the balance system OR the processing center (the brain) are rendered inefficient or inaccurate through disease processes or trauma, then you may experience feelings of dizziness or imbalance.
Dizziness can also be a side effect of medications or dysfunction in a cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels).
Physical Therapists treat dizziness!
A trained professional in Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) will be able to identify what is causing your dizziness or imbalance and provide treatments and strategies to improve your symptoms. VRT looks different for each person because the reason they are dizzy is different.
VRT has been shown to improve dizziness and imbalance by improving natural reflexes, utilizing alternative strategies to maintain balance, and getting the body used to irritating motions and environments.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is a condition where calcium carbonate crystals called otoconia migrate to the vestibular canals and cause transient room-spinning dizziness typically with laying down or sitting up from laying down. A VRT Therapist is able to identify the canal that the otoconia are stuck in and perform specific maneuvers to assist the movement of the otoconia back where it belongs.
Retraining The VOR
There is a reflex between your eyes and your vestibular system called the Vestibular Ocular Reflex (VOR) that is responsible for stabilizing an image while the head is moving. Your VOR can be impacted by disease, trauma, or medication. The great news is, there are exercises that can improve your VOR in addition to your sense of balance/stability.
Another way dizziness and imbalance can be improved is by utilizing other skills or systems to substitute for a dysfunctional part of the balance system. We can compensate for a poor VOR through utilizing quick eye movements called Saccades. Saccades are quick eye movements we make when transitioning from one target to another. They are also utilized when we overshoot or undershoot when looking at something. Research has shown that VRT can improve the efficiency of recruitment of corrective saccades. We can help teach your brain and your body to work better together.
A VRT Therapist uses specific tests to identify the movements that provoke your symptoms. We then create a treatment plan to assist in habituating to those symptom-provoking stimuli. Following an insult to the balance system, it is normal to become sensitive to certain stimuli, for example scanning through a busy store aisle or when you bend forward to tie your shoes and then sit up tall. VRT assists in training the brain so that these stimuli are not a threat so that you don’t feel dizzy.
If you are suffering from dizziness or imbalance you should seek care from a Physical Therapist trained in Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy. We are able to determine which components of your balance system are affected and can aid in your recovery. If you are not a candidate for VRT, we can also help with a referral to a specialist.