Written by Dr. Suzanne Osborne, MSPT, DPT
Have you ever gone to an amusement park and ridden on a spinny ride like the swings? Some people love it. Some people don’t. That’s because these rides activate your vestibular system, or your inner ear, the system which gives your brain information about the position of your head in space. Some people have a more sensitive vestibular system than others, making them more uncomfortable with spinning and motion sickness. This does not mean you have vertigo, just that you are more sensitive.
Vertigo is the sensation that you are spinning or that your environment is spinning around you when it is not. Vertigo can be very frightening and disabling causing nausea, vomiting, and imbalance. Vertigo, dizziness and balance related disorders are among the most common health conditions that are experienced by adults in the US. About 40% of Americans will experience vertigo at least once in their lifetime. (1)
Vertigo can be caused by several different problems. The most common one is Benign Paroxismal Positional Vertigo or BPPV. BPPV is most often experienced when rolling over in bed, turning quickly or looking up. It is caused when normally occurring calcium deposits, called otoliths, get dislodged and move freely in your inner ear. Other vestibular disorders include labyrinthitis, Meniere’s, cervicogenic dizziness, and migraine. Physical therapy can be very helpful in treating vestibular disorders by using a series of head positioning maneuvers, manual therapy, eye, and balance exercises.
Dizziness is a broader term to describe disequilibrium or imbalance. While it can be used to describe vertigo, it can also describe changes in blood pressure such as lightheadedness or syncope. Some people also use this term to describe loss of balance or frequent falls.
The Connecticut Collaboration for Fall Prevention estimates that 3 in 10 adults over 70 years old will fall each year and 90% of all hip fractures are caused by falls. Older adults who take 4 or medications, have difficulty moving around, have foot issues, visual impairments, or tripping hazards at home are at a higher risk for falls. (2) It is important to find the root of the problem causing dizziness in order to get it under control. This can include changes in medication and proper hydration and may need to be managed by a physician. Additionally physical therapy including strengthening, flexibility and balance exercises, gait training, and safety education can be very effective in lowering the risk for falls.
So if any of these symptoms sound familiar, give us a call and we’ll get you moving again!