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Physical therapy for vertigo: Does it actually work?

Physical Therapy for Vertigo
3 minutes, 40 seconds

Vertigo is categorized as a vestibular disorder and can be described as a sudden spinning sensation that can be brought on by moving too abruptly. It can leave individuals with this condition feeling dizzy and thrown off balance. 

Approximately 40% of people in the U.S. experience vertigo at some point in their lifetime, which makes it an extremely common condition. Women are more likely to experience this condition than men. The likelihood of experiencing vertigo also increases with age. 

Most times, vertigo will go away on its own. But when it becomes recurring and affects daily living, treatment options for these people may include vestibular rehabilitation, head and body maneuvers, medication, and in extreme circumstances even surgery. The type of treatment most effective for you will depend on the reason you’re experiencing this condition. Most people in need of vertigo treatment seek the care of a physical therapist in their area. Many therapists can provide vestibular rehabilitation, head and body maneuvers, and other treatment programs.

What are some more specific symptoms of vertigo that physical therapists see in their patients?

  • Nausea.
  • Headache or migraine.
  • Irregular eye movements.
  • Spinning.
  • Ear ringing.
  • Poor balance.

What can cause someone to have vertigo?

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) — Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is a condition that occurs when calcium carbonate crystals become removed from their typical location in the ear and collect somewhere deeper in the ear. When the particles become removed and collect in an atypical location, your balance becomes affected. The head and body can become unbalanced and everyday activities can become more difficult. Not much is known about why this underdiagnosed condition occurs in people.
  • Vestibular migraine (VM) — Vestibular migraines are a type of vestibular syndrome. This condition is often underdiagnosed, similar to benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. The migraines occur repeatedly and typically include symptoms like intense head pain or pulsing, sensitivity to light, seeing auras, and worsening symptoms with physical movement. Another major symptom in people who get vestibular migraines is vertigo. These symptoms combined can make daily functioning difficult and can leave patients rendered temporarily incapacitated.
  • Meniere's disease — Meniere’s disease is a disorder relating to the inner ear. It’s most often due to fluid buildup and changes in ear pressure. It is known for causing bouts of vertigo in those who have it. It typically affects one ear but is capable of spreading to both ears. The reasons for fluid buildup and changes in pressure in the ears aren’t fully understood, only that they can cause symptoms like dizziness, nausea and even hearing loss. This disorder is less common than BPPV and VMs but has become overdiagnosed.

What are some ways that physical therapy can help patients manage their vertigo?

  • Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) — Vestibular rehabilitation therapy is a treatment program designed with four goals in mind for people suffering from vertigo: retraining visual gaze, retraining gait when walking, improving posture and improving quality of life. VRT focuses on balance and visual stabilization through various exercises. These exercises are meant to help patients better manage life with vertigo and reduce the severity of their vertigo.
  • Canalith repositioning — Canalith repositioning is a minor noninvasive procedure that is meant to treat people with BPPV. It can be performed by a physical therapist and generally involves maneuvering the head and neck of a patient who is experiencing vertigo. These head and neck maneuvers are intended to move the deposits of material that have amassed in the inner ear and caused the patient’s balance and visual perception to become affected.
  • Brandt-Daroff exercises — These exercises are meant for patients with BPPV and are meant to dislodge calcium carbonate crystals in a similar manner as canalith repositioning. Performing Brandt-Daroff exercises involves repetitive head and neck movements that should be performed several times a day for at least two weeks after experiencing an episode of vertigo.

Each of these methods can be performed by a physical therapist in a professional health care clinic, to mitigate the detrimental symptoms of conditions that cause vertigo. For more related blog articles, read about how going to physical therapy could be one of the best things you ever do for your balance.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch physical therapy for vertigo

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person for your vertigo? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address your vertigo with physical therapy. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.

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