Dizziness is a very common symptom that people experience at some point during their life. People may describe many different symptoms associated with the word ‘dizzy,’ like light headedness, unsteadiness/disequilibrium or vertigo. Depending on what you actually feel when you say “I am feeling dizzy”, the treatment options will vary.
Here I would like to talk more about vertigo and other vestibular related symptoms. What is vertigo? It is a sensation that, either you or the environment around you is spinning when there is actually no movement. Vertigo is different from dizziness (sensation of light headedness), disequilibrium (unsteadiness or imbalance) and presyncope (sensation of fainting due to cardio vascular problems). Just like fever, vertigo is not a medical condition; it is actually a symptom of some underlying cause. It could be due to two main reasons:
- Disturbance or damage to the inner ear where balance organs are situated – peripheral vestibular disorder
- Damage to the brain or nervous system that helps in processing balance – central vestibular disorder.
People will also notice other symptoms with vertigo like nausea, imbalance, unable to sleep in certain positions, vomiting, difficulty turning head in certain direction as it would result in sudden onset of vertigo etc. Your family doctor will be able to figure out what is the actual cause of your symptoms. If the symptoms are due to damage to the inner ear organs, vestibular rehabilitation is treatment to help get you better.
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy – VRT
“Vestibular rehabilitation is a specialized form of therapy designed to alleviate both primary and secondary symptoms of vestibular disorders”. People who are referred for VRT should have a confirmed diagnosis of vestibular pathology from a doctor. The reason for a proper diagnosis is that VRT is not effective in treating other causes of dizziness/vertigo. VRT is effective for vertigo secondary to Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), vestibular hypofunction secondary to Meniere’s disease or labyrinthitis.
What to expect for assessment and treatment.
The assessment will include a thorough analysis of the history, eye movement and vision assessment, balance and gait assessment, and vertigo assessment.
BPPV is treated with a procedure called canalith repositioning maneuvers which uses a series of head positioning maneuvers intending to move the displaced calcium carbonate crystals from the semicircular canals of the inner ear. This technique is considered more successful in treating BPPV than drug based treatment.
Exercises are prescribed based on the symptoms to improve balance, visual adaptation problems and over functional level. People with movement related dizziness or vertigo will be given vestibular habituation exercises. Balance retraining exercises are also a part of VRT.
The initial session will take about an hour to complete and it includes a thorough assessment and treatment, the follow up sessions will be about 30 – 45 mins . Weekly appointments of 4-6 weeks with regular home exercise routine will help the patients to get back their pre functional status. If you have any questions regarding the symptoms that you have or the treatment, feel free to ask us, we are here to help you!