A Physiotherapist’s Guide To Treating Vertigo

6 Oct, 2021

When people think of physiotherapy, the first thing that most probably comes to mind is exercise-based and manual-therapy based treatment for injuries. However, did you know that physiotherapist’s treat vertigo and dizziness?

Knowing that physiotherapists treat these types of vertigo symptoms is important, as many people live with vertigo and dizziness without knowing there can be something done about it to help life get back to normal. Do you feel dizzy when you try to get up in the morning or even when you try to lay down to go to sleep? Do you have that feeling that the world is spinning around you and this all started for no apparent reason?

Well, there is hope, and in this blog post, we will discuss what vestibular physiotherapy is and how physiotherapists treat one of the most common vestibular disorders known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).

What is Vestibular Physiotherapy, and why is it important?

Vestibular Physiotherapy addresses problems or dysfunctions of a vital system in your body; the vestibular system. The vestibular system is the very intricate system of the inner ear that controls your sense of balance and spatial awareness/orientation through your brainstem and other neural structures of your brain and also contributes to the movement of your eyes. There are two structures of your vestibular system that are important to note are the semicircular canals and otoliths. The most common vestibular condition that physiotherapists come across is BPPV, and this is due to a problem with the semicircular canals. BPPV is non-life-threatening but can be very debilitating, therefore knowing a physiotherapist can help can be a relief. BPPV usually gets better with time, however, if it doesn’t… a physiotherapist can help! 

What can cause BPPV? 

Calcium Carbonate crystals exist within the ‘utricle’ of our ‘inner ear’. These salt crystals, like most things in the human body, have a home and a function. These salt crystals can become dislodged from their home and become stuck within the ‘semicircular canals’ of our inner ear. This can lead to interference in the flow of liquid within our inner ears. The normal flow of this liquid is essential in helping our brain determine our sense of balance. When there is a change of flow in this liquid, the brain can become confused by the information it is reading. The result is this sensation of ‘dizziness’ as the brain tries to figure out what is going on. 

What are the signs and symptoms of BPPV? 

  • Brief episodes of vertigo (vertigo: a spinning sensation despite being stationary) 
  • The movement of the head almost always precipitates these episodes of vertigo 
  • Light-Headedness 
  • Balance Problems 

Some more serious symptoms which can be associated with dizziness include: 

  • A new, or worsening severe headache 
  • Fever 
  • Neck Pain 
  • Hearing Loss 
  • Weakness 
  • Issues with speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty walking 

These symptoms should be reviewed at your medical centre or hospital as soon as possible. 

How can physiotherapy assist with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo? 

Our head movements is unavoidable with day to day activities – and the discomfort associated with vertigo should not limit our lives. The solution could be one consult away. As covered above these salt crystals can fall from their usual home and become lodged in the semicircular canals of your inner ear. Physiotherapy can assist with manual techniques to reposition these salt crystals, clear them from their new home and allow your vestibular function to return to normal. The human body is also SUPER adaptive – if you have been living with the effects of BPPV for even just a couple of weeks, your body will already be changing how it moves and how it perceives information to get around this deficit to your inner ear. This will need to be unlearnt once life gets back to normal. Once normal vestibular function has returned, your physiotherapist may assist you with balance exercises, postural and gait re-education to suit your presentation and get you back to the life you had before the dizziness. 

Physiotherapy treatment techniques 

The technique prescribed by your clinician will vary depending on the results of your assessment. After a thorough review of your symptoms and after efforts are made to reproduce your dizziness, your therapist will prescribe the technique they deem to be most beneficial for the canal which has been affected. This is why it is important to be assessed for your dizziness and not rely on Dr Google – too many people have attempted to self-treat their vertigo and only made their lives more uncomfortable! The removal of these salt crystals via one of these repositioning techniques reduce the number of false signals firing off from your vestibulocochlear nerve – which will result in you feeling yourself getting back to normal. 

If you or someone that you know is suffering from the symptoms of vertigo give us a call at Gen Physio! We have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. An assessment by an experienced clinician is required to properly identify the cause of your symptoms and prescribe an appropriate intervention. All our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book our mobile physiotherapy services.

Written by Cal & Katarina – Physiotherapists Gold Coast

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