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PT Posts - Is the Room Spinning?

Welcome to PT Posts, our blog series by TerraLuna's Resident Physical Therapist Rebekah Trimbach, PT, MPT, CSCS, OCS.

Do you ever get a sensation that the room is spinning? Or that the world beneath you is unsteady even if you know you're on a flat, solid surface? Do you ever have a hard time focusing on street signs or other words while your body is moving? If you answered "YES" to any of these questions you could be experiencing dizziness or vertigo. Dizziness can be a sign of MANY different things but first, let’s check off a few important symptoms. If you experience any of the following, you may want to check in with your physician or ENT BEFORE seeking treatment with a physical therapist.

These include:

  • Double vision

  • Changes in hearing

  • Migraines

  • Feelings of panic

  • Difficulty speaking

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Uncoordinated movements

  • Frequent falls / “drop attacks”

NOTE: While PT may be appropriate at some point with some of these symptoms, it's important to check-in with your physician as they may require more medical testing and/or treatment first. Now that we’ve got that list out of the way, let’s talk about dizziness and how physical therapy may be able to help. Dizziness can be described as feeling light-headed, off-balance, and/or like the room or world is spinning. It is commonly referred to as vertigo. There can be many different causes of dizziness/vertigo, including (but not limited to) vestibular disorders, low blood pressure, migraine, panic attack / anxiety, and/or it can be a side effect from medication. Medical management of dizziness frequently includes medication (i.e. meclizine, dramamine, etc) and individuals are often left feeling like they have to “live with it”. This can be INCREDIBLY frustrating and debilitating. Here comes some good news… PHYSICAL THERAPY CAN HELP in many situations. An assessment and treatment by a trained vestibular physical therapist can help if dizziness is caused by vestibular disorders. The vestibular system is part of the inner ear that senses movement of the head and head position in space. This helps with gaze stability (focusing on objects while moving), postural stability and balance, and your orientation in space. Conditions effecting this system include (but are not limited to) BPPV (“loose crystals”), neuritis, labyrinthitis, Meniere’s Disease, and/or bilateral vestibular disorders.

HERE’S HOW PT CAN HELP… If your dizziness is provoked by head position, is episodic, and lasts less than 60 seconds… you may need POSITIONAL MANEUVERS. If your dizziness is worse when driving or trying to focus… you may need GAZE STABILIZATION. If your dizziness is worse with specific motions / movements and better once movement stops… you may need HABITUATION EXERCISES. If your dizziness is described as unsteadiness, worse at night, and/or worse with eyes closed… you may need POSTURAL STABILIZATION / BALANCE EXERCISES But how do you really know what to do and if physical therapy can help? It all comes down to your history and objective measures taken during a vestibular assessment. A physical therapist trained in the vestibular system and management of conditions mentioned above will help guide you down the right path. Questions?? Call or message me and I will be happy to help. It’s time to look forward to a life with our feet on the ground, moving along a straight path.

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