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Natural Awakenings Spokane WA/Coeur d'Alene ID

Find Relief from Vertigo

Mar 31, 2021 06:09PM ● By Amber Mc Kenzie

by Sarah Hayward

 Vertigo is a common—and difficult to describe—condition that affects 50 percent of people by the age of 70. Vertigo is a symptom, not a diagnosis, and is associated with many different conditions.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

By far the most common reason people experience vertigo is a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). A typical symptom of BPPV is a room-spinning sensation. Thankfully, this condition is relatively easy to treat with special maneuvers performed by a vestibular physical therapist, and relief is often achievable within a few sessions.

Cervical Dizziness

There are other reasons a person might experience vertigo as well, including concussions, migraines, infections such as vestibular neuritis, multiple sclerosis, Meniere’s disease, and drug side effects. One of the more commonly missed diagnoses is cervical dizziness, which stems from muscle and joint restrictions in the neck. The mechanism of how this causes vertigo is unclear, but those experiencing cervical dizziness typically see relief with physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic treatments. Typical cervical dizziness vertigo symptoms include a mild, persistent “fuzziness” or sense of being imbalanced and unsteady.

Another commonly missed cause for vertigo is anxiety. Anxiety can present physically in a myriad of ways, with vertigo being one of the many possible symptoms. For those experiencing vertigo due to anxiety, managing the anxiety with counseling and psychiatric care is the best course of action.

Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness
Chronic, long-lasting dizziness is a problem that affects 25 percent of people who experience an acute vestibular ailment. There have been several different theories and diagnoses over the years for persistent vertigo, and recently those have been put together under the diagnosis of PPPD, or Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness. PPPD creates a sense of dizziness, motion sensitivity, and unsteadiness with walking. Folks with PPPD may be easily disturbed by visual input, such as busy hotel carpets, scrolling on the computer, walking through a crowded store, or seeing cars going by in their peripheral vision.

People with PPPD are caught in a bad loop. Having vertigo creates a sense of anxiety, which causes the person to be afraid to move for fear of setting off their symptoms. Being hypervigilant to any sense of dizziness makes the person very good at detecting dizziness, so it becomes easier to set them off. And limiting their movements for fear of getting dizzy only further exacerbates the problem, as our vestibular system operates in a “use-it-or-lose-it” mentality. If the vestibular system never gets used, it will start to shut down.

Relief is still possible even in these persistent cases of PPPD. Education is key and can take away some of the fear of movement that may have developed. A gradual, progressive movement program with specific vestibular and balance exercises will slowly retrain the vestibular system to work properly again. Stress management techniques aimed at calming the overly-active, overly-protective nervous system will gradually help a person escape the bad loop in which they are trapped.

No matter the reason for feeling dizzy or off-balance, there is always hope for relief. Oftentimes, the answer is a quick fix. And in more stubborn or complicated cases, resolution is still available, even if it demands more persistence to achieve it.

Education on the mechanisms and causes for vertigo, paired with a thorough physical exam by a vestibular therapist, can lessen any underlying fears about the potential source of vertigo symptoms.

Dr. Sarah Hayward is the owner of Flourish Physical Therapy and Wellness, located at 3418 S. Grand Blvd., in Spokane. For more information, call 509-385-2823 or visit Mention Natural Awakenings during the month of April and receive 30 percent off all visits for the duration of treatment.
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