What is Vertigo (and how Physiotherapy can help!)

by Mar 20, 2018Injuries, Physiotherapy, Treatment

How do you treat Vertigo?

Vertigo and dizziness are often highly confused. Vertigo is a specific type of dizziness defined as the illusion of movement occurring in the environment. Vertigo and dizziness are not interchangeable terms. Dizziness is used to describe a variety of sensations (light headed, swaying, disoriented etc.) While vertigo is often described as the feeling of the room spinning or you spinning within the room. Vertigo is usually caused as a result of a disorder of the vestibular system. The vestibular system is made up of small structures located within your inner ear that help control our balance as well as tell the brain what direction and speed the head is moving in space.

What is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or (BPPV) , is a specific type of vertigo that is very common and is a condition where head movements in different positions elicit vertigo in the patient. Patients often describe their symptoms of BPPV as the room spinning when they look up, lie down quickly, bend forward or roll over in bed. But the symptoms will usually go away within a relatively short duration of time. BPPV affects 50% of people over 70 years of age impacting many more women than men. The symptoms of BPPV are caused when small crystals in the ear move into fluid filled canals in the ear called “semicircular canals”. The ear crystals alter the flow of fluid within these canals leading to vertigo.

Symptoms of BPPV

  • Vertigo (a spinning sensation, described above – not feeling dizzy or lightheaded) 
  • Short in duration (last seconds to a few minutes) 
  • Is usually induced by a change in position 
  • Nausea or feeling faint is usually NOT accompanied with BPPV 

How can a Physiotherapist Help?

Physiotherapists use provoking maneuvers to diagnose BPPV and use a series of tests to determine which structure in the vestibular system is impacted and determine the best course of treatment.

Physiotherapists are able to help move the ear crystals out of semicircular canals and back into their correct structure, to eliminate vertigo. Usually with BPPV, a 10 minute procedure performed by a physiotherapist will result in success in 80% of patients; repeating the maneuver twice will increase that to 96% success.

The physiotherapist will then complete a thorough exam of postural control, balance, oculomotor function and a motion sensitivity assessment once the vertigo has cleared to ensure there are no underlying compensatory strategies. It is important that the oculomotor and vestibular systems, balance/gait and the cervical spine (neck) are assessed thoroughly. Then your physiotherapist will create a customized program to improve the function of these symptoms.

Here at Westcoast SCI we have vertigo and dizziness specialists at our Port Coquitlam location. If you or your loved one experiences vertigo, come on in and allow our team to help eliminate your symptoms and allow you to return to everyday life. Check out more information about our clinic’s specialists in Vertigo.