Vertigo is the feeling of a rocking or rotation when you are perfectly still. Many people describe it as “feeling drunk”. It tends to last for several hours or days. Medically, it is distinct from dizziness because it involves the sensation of movement. Vertigo is often due a problem in the inner ear. An important part of the inner ear is the collection of semicircular canals. These structures are lined with cells that tell our body when we are moving or changing positions.
Causes and Risk Factors for Vertigo
Vertigo is a very common issue. There are a variety of causes for this condition. But no matter what the cause, they all pose a very serious risk of falling.
And as I like to say, ‘When you don’t know where the floor is… you are sure to end up on it!’
Many falls and injuries are caused by vertigo. If you experience vertigo, be sure to mention it to your Physical Therapist or Doctor right away!
Vertigo can be caused by a central or peripheral problem. Central causes occur in the spinal cord or brain, while peripheral is due to a problem with the inner ear. When the small crystals in the inner ear become displaced it can cause an irritation within the semicircular canals. There are many different things that can cause a change in the crystals. These include car accidents, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere’s disease, headaches, head injuries, strokes, tumors, multiple sclerosis and others. All of these issues can cause vertigo. No matter the cause, it will cause you to feel “dizzy”, “woozy” or “drunk”.
Head injuries definitely increase the risk factor for vertigo. In addition, antidepressants, aspirin, blood pressure medications and anti-seizure meds can also cause vertigo. For some, alcohol can cause vertigo.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose vertigo, a medical professional will take a full history of your symptoms and events. This includes previous medical issues, recent illnesses and medications. Then, a physical exam is performed. It includes a comprehensive neurological exam to check brain function. This allows for the determination of whether it’s peripheral or central. Signs of abnormal eye movement may pinpoint the problem. The Dix-Hallpike test or the roll test may be done. The Dix-Hallpike test repositions the head and monitors symptoms. With the roll test, the head is rapidly moved from side to side. A CT scan or MRI may be done to exclude structural problems. Sometimes, electronystagmography may be performed.
There’s good news! There is a treatment that is found to clear up vertigo by 85% with just one treatment! And if you still have vertigo,, it is 97% effective with just 3 treatments! It’s known as the canalith repositioning procedure or the Epley Maneuver. And our TBTW Therapists can do it! Specific head movements are performed to move the crystals in the inner ear.
A second type of vertigo involves the reflex between your head and eyes. It tells your head and eyes whether you want them to move together (like when you are watching a car drive by your house) or whether they need to move separately (like when you are reading a book). When this reflex is not working properly your head and eyes do not know whether to move together or not. As you can imagine, this causes a large amount of vertigo! For this we use a series of head and eye movements to retrain your reflex. This leads to decreased sensitivity of the nerves and improves vertigo. However, this needs to be done on a regular basis for optimal results. A trained physical therapist can perform these types of treatment to retrain your reflex and get you moving … without vertigo.
Keep in mind that medications, such as Meclizine, may provide temporary relief but are not a cure. They only cover the symptoms.
Most patients with peripheral vertigo can find substantial relief with treatment; it has been suggested that the Epley maneuver in cases of BPPV can benefit as many as 90% of affected patients. Although recurrence of BPPV may be more than 15% in the first year after an episode, it is unlikely that vertigo will persist beyond a few days. When vertigo persists, evaluation for any underlying structural problems of the brain, spinal canal, or inner ear may be necessary.
Are you feeling dizzy with a sense of movement? You just might be experiencing vertigo. Make your world stop spinning with the help of our experienced and certified physical therapists. They are trained in the Cawthorne head exercises and Epley maneuver for vertigo. They can even give you instruction on how to do these exercises at home. Be sure to Contact Us Today at Lillington, NC Center to set up a one-on-one consultation and full evaluation of your symptoms. We’ve helped many others and can help you too.