Vertigo and dizziness are two terms used to describe the sensation of physical motion when the body is still. It may feel like you are spinning or falling, or the world is turning around you. Besides being generally unpleasant, it can greatly disrupt your ability to move through your day normally. It may include symptoms such as nausea, migraines, vomiting, and profuse sweating. It often becomes difficult to stand up or walk securely and can lead to falls. To avoid the unpleasant symptoms, a sufferer is frequently forced to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. The loss of muscle strength, stamina, and flexibility has a negative impact on your overall health as well.
One of the more common causes of vertigo is something called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) and is a common inner ear problem. BPPV causes short periods of dizziness when moving your head into certain positions. Inside the semicircular canal, there is a layer of calcium carbonate. BPPV occurs when bits of this layer break off into “crystals.” When you move your head a certain way, the crystals move inside the canal and can stimulate nerve endings. This causes you to become dizzy.
In terms of treatment for these conditions, there is no difference between vertigo or dizziness. However, research shows there is a difference in effectiveness of the treatment you choose. While medication addresses the symptoms of dizziness and vertigo, it does not address the underlying physiological cause. Antihistamines and benzodiazepines can be used to treat the unpleasant symptoms such as nausea. However recent research shows relying on medication alone is not the most effective treatment available and can make the condition worse with time.
Specific physical maneuvers tend to have better outcomes than medication in relieving the symptoms and treating the underlying cause of vertigo.1
Methods used include:
- Repositioning Maneuvers of the Inner Ear
- Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex Training
- Movement Desensitization and Habituation
- Cervical Spine Mobilization
The specific treatment will depend on the cause of your vertigo. A qualified physical therapist can customize a treatment plan for you based on the results of your physical evaluation and your goals for recovery. In very few cases vertigo cannot be managed with treatment maneuvers, and a surgical procedure called a “posterior canal plugging” may be considered—however, surgical intervention is rare.