How Can Physical Therapy Soothe Vertigo and BPPV?

How Can Physical Therapy Soothe Vertigo and BPPV?

Vertigo is an unpleasant feeling when your body hallucinates motion that makes you feel like you are spinning when you are standing still. We've probably all been in a scenario where it can feel like you're standing still and then everything else is moving around you really quickly and you can't keep your focus. If you feel like the room has ever been spinning at some point, chances are that you might have been experiencing vertigo at that moment. While vertigo might seem like an uncontrollable sensation, there are ways in which physical therapy can help patients who are suffering from symptoms of vertigo over time.

Vertigo can be a result of inner ear infections, diseases of the ear, injury, or trauma to the inner ear. Common symptoms of vertigo include nausea, vomiting, sweating, and abnormal eye movements. Vertigo is attributed to issues within the peripheral nervous system or the vestibular nervous system. When one is experiencing an episode of vertigo, this sensation is often combined with nystagmus, or a jerking rhythmic eye movement due to the ocular muscles perceiving this sensation of spinning.

Now that we understand what the most common symptoms of vertigo are, it is important to figure out what could potentially cause you to experience Vertigo and ways in which physical therapy can help you treat vertigo. You might be asking the important questions like what causes vertigo and what can I do if I experience this discomfort?

Factors That Can Trigger Vertigo

Vertigo can be a side effect to many other disorders or conditions such as:

  • Migraine
  • Surgery
  • A hole in the inner ear
  • Head injury
  • Shingles in or around the ear
  • Cerebellar disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Acoustic neuroma (growth that develops on a nerve in the inner ear)
  • Otosclerosis (bone growth in the middle ear)

Those who are pregnant have also reported vertigo as a symptom that can be attributed to hormones. Because there are so many different factors and potential causes that could trigger a bout of vertigo, it's important to get a comprehensive evaluation and check-up to determine what is contributing to your specific case and instances of vertigo, as each patient is unique.

What is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)?

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is an inner-ear issue that occurs when your head moves into different positions and creates dizziness. BPPV affects the vestibular system which is the system in the inner ear that is used to maintain balance. BPPV is one of the most common types of peripheral vertigo which affects 9 out of 100 older adults.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (or more commonly referred to as BPPV) is not life-threatening. The name explains that when one experiences this type of vertigo, the spinning sensation occurs suddenly and is triggered when there is a change in the position of the head. This episode of BPPV usually lasts around 15-45 seconds but can extend up to two minutes in worse cases.

What is going on in your inner ear that creates this sensation?

There are small “crystals” in the inner ear. With movement, these crystals stimulate signals to the brain to help define direction so you can orient yourself. If a crystal moves out of place, you can feel dizzy. Most commonly found in females, the exact cause of BPPV is not known; however, we do know that the crystals can become dislodged and move around if you have an infection, a pre-existing condition, or trauma to the head.

Can You Prevent Vertigo?

There are currently no known ways to completely prevent vertigo, but there are ways to treat it and reduce pain. A doctor may prescribe medications to alleviate motion sickness as well as antibiotics for any infection that could be causing or resulted in vertigo. If treatments have not helped you recover, surgery will sometimes be an option for more serious cases.

There are several potential steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of getting vertigo or experiencing some vertigo discomfort. A few suggestions to help when you are experiencing vertigo discomfort would be:

  • Sleep with your head raised on two or more pillows
  • Make head adjustments slowly
  • Limit neck extension
  • Exercises to correct symptoms (physical therapy can help with this)
  • Getting up slowly from a seated position

Can A Physical Therapist Help with Vertigo?

If you are looking for a non-invasive treatment, a visit to the physical therapist is a great first step to understanding where this discomfort is coming from and potential coping skills or treatments that can be done to assist over time.

For those individuals who are looking for non-invasive treatment options to start out with, physical therapy is an excellent option with plenty of resources and techniques that are designed to identify what could be contributing to your vertigo and comprehensive treatment programs that will help you reduce the symptoms over time.

One of the benefits of going to see a physical therapist for your vertigo is that our physical therapists at Results PT will listen to your comments and perform comprehensive patient evaluations to understand the full picture. Your physical therapist will help identify potential contributing factors that are impacting when and where you feel vertigo. For instance, your physical therapist will help you identify potential contributors like certain physical activities, areas around the house, whether your vertigo is consistent or fades with time, etc.

From there, your physical therapist will design a treatment program that is designed to treat those symptoms through a variety of exercises, maneuvers, stretches, and manual therapy techniques.

A physical therapist will help simulate movement changes that would trigger BPPV and confirm if you do indeed have this inner ear issue or if there are other contributing factors that need to be identified.

A physical therapist can help identify why you might be suffering from vertigo, assess which head movements trigger this spinning sensation, and develop a treatment plan to use hands-on manual therapy to recover from the issue over time. When left untreated, BPPV will usually resolve in two to six months, but 90 percent of our patients find relief in one five minute treatment called the Epley Maneuver.

At Results Physiotherapy, our therapists will use the Epley maneuver on our patients in order to reposition the crystals from the semicircular canal back into the inner ear so they no longer stimulate the nerve endings, which causes the unpleasant symptoms. In addition to this maneuver, your physical therapists can help identify positive ways to cope with any uncomfortable symptoms.

We understand that vertigo can be an incredibly uncomfortable feeling so if you are in need of relief, contact one of our friendly physical therapy clinics near you and we can help you feel better faster!

Posted by Ryan Bucci at 8:50 AM
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