female physical therapist examining teenage boys neck

Vertigo

Vertigo, the sensation or illusion of spinning, can have many root causes. Physical therapy for vertigo can help diagnose the cause and determine your best course of treatment.

Physical therapy for vertigo

Vertigo is a common ailment that affects many people every year. Although it isn’t life threatening, it can substantially affect the quality of life. Vertigo is a sensation of spinning, rocking, or moving even if sitting still. Symptoms of vertigo are often worse with moving the head or body, such as rolling over in bed or bending over to pick something up. If aggravated, vertigo can also be associated with lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting.

Causes of vertigo

Most vertigo is caused by:

  • Inner-ear infection
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Vascular impairment
  • Strokes
  • Tumors
  • Neck (cervical spine) issues
  • BPPV
female physical therapist meeting with teenage boy

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is the most common cause of vertigo and is due to a mechanical change in the inner ear. “Crystals,” or particles in the inner ear, can be dislodged and travel into one of the ear’s semicircular canals and create a false sense of movement. This is why changes in head position can produce symptoms.

A physical therapist can determine if BPPV is causing an individual’s symptoms using balance testing and specific movement tests. The most common test is the Dix-Hallpike test, which uses simple head movements to provoke symptoms. In addition, the physical therapist looks for nystagmus–involuntary movement of the eyes–that can help determine which ear canal the problem is in.

How we treat vertigo

A physical therapist will complete a comprehensive evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your vertigo and will create a customized program to address your needs. Treatment for vertigo may include:

  • Eye-tracking exercises
  • Balance exercises on various surfaces
  • Walking activities with various head movements
  • Habituation (Brandt Daroff) exercises
  • Canalith repositioning procedures
teenage boy standing on one leg while female physical therapist holds his right hand

If BPPV is the cause of your vertigo, your treatment will likely include canalith repositioning procedures. This moves the crystals back into place, usually with a set of movements called the Epley Maneuver. This treatment typically resolves symptoms in 1-2 visits, but a small percentage of patients will have persistent symptoms that require additional treatment that may include a different repositioning procedure known as the Semont Maneuver or habituation exercises to correct signs. Even after symptoms have resolved, your physical therapist may provide additional balance training tailored for inner ear problems.

What to expect

Your first physical therapy appointment is about creating a personalized treatment plan based on your health history, diagnosis, and goals. Here’s what you can expect at your first physical therapy appointment:

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Your first appointment will last about an hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early.

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If applicable, bring your physician referral or prescription, insurance card, paperwork, ID, and co-payment.

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At your appointment, we’ll do an initial evaluation and discuss your care plan.

*Services are not available at every location. Visit our Locations page for more details.