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Articles by our Physical Therapists

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15. Vertigo

 Vertigo

If you have ever had an episode of vertigo you most likely will never forget how bad or sick it made you feel.  Vertigo is a spinning sensation, a feeling that the room or you are spinning for seconds to minutes.  Vertigo is a very treatable condition, which I have been treating for past 12 years.  During this time I have noticed some interesting conclusions from the onset of vertigo.  A larger number of vertigo patients are referred to physical therapy in the spring.  Typically these patients report a decreased activity level in the winter and a sudden increase in activity with yard work and gardening in the spring. 

Vertigo complaints originate in the vestibular system.  The vestibular system is located in the inner ear.  It is composed of three semicircular canals, the saccule, and the utricle.  The vestibular system is about the size of a dime.  Fluid moves through each canal providing the body with information on head and body movement.  The saccule and utricle primarily sense linear acceleration and head tilt. 

Dizziness or vertigo can be caused by displacement of otoconia within the semi-circular canals.  Otoconia are small calcium carbonate crystals, that resemble beach sand, that can disrupt information the semi-circular canals are telling the body.  This condition is known as BPPV or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. 

BPPV can be treated very effectively with conservative physical therapy treatment.  The treatment consists of determining which canal has the accumulation of crystals.  Depending on the canal involved the patient is moved through a series of positions to move the debris around the canal and into the utricle.  Once located in the utricle the crystals begin to dissolve and the symptoms of dizziness and vertigo fade.  The condition can be treated within 1-3 treatment sessions. 

There are ways to decrease the incidence of vertigo.  A simple way is to be more active during the winter months.  This would include walking within the house for 10 minutes, 3 times a day.  There are more specific ways to stimulate the vestibular system.  These include 2 simple walking exercises.  First find a target across the room.  Then while walking towards the target turn your head up and down or side-to-side keeping the target in sight.  Practice this maneuver for 1-2 minutes and perform 2-3 times a day.

Baker Valley Physical Therapy will be offering series of educational seminars beginning in 2012.  The first seminar will focus on balance disorders, fall prevention, and osteoporosis on January 19th at 6:00 at the Baker Valley Physical Therapy office.

Written by Blake Marlia, DPT

Published November 2011

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