Investigate your dizziness or vertigo
Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Do you experience dizzy spells, unsteadiness on your feet, or even feeling like the world is spinning? These sensations often spring from a similar source — dysfunctions of the vestibular system. The vestibular system encompasses the parts of your brain and inner ear that process sensory information controlling your eye movements, coordination, and most importantly, balance. If there is a problem with these mechanisms, a vestibular dysfunction may occur.
Book an appointment to have your symptoms of dizziness and vertigo assessed, treated and alleviated.
What’s the Difference Between Dizziness and Vertigo?
With dizziness, you feel a sensation of lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness on your feet. Dizziness doesn’t involve feeling like you or your surroundings are rotating or spinning. Rotating and spinning are distinct signs of vertigo.
What are the Causes of Dizziness or Vertigo?
The most common cause of vertigo and related dizziness is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) and other disorders of the inner ear. Common causes of dizziness, vertigo and disequilibrium (feeling unbalanced) include illness (virus), head injuries, migraine and medications.
A stroke, heart arrhythmias and blood pressure disorders can cause vertigo. Depression and anxiety can also trigger the sensation. Stress is a known trigger of vertigo and may prompt relapses of the symptoms in chronic sufferers.
Some possible causes of dizziness include a sudden drop in blood pressure, heart muscle disease, decrease in blood volume, anxiety disorders, anaemia (low iron), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), ear infection, dehydration and heatstroke. In rare cases, dizziness has been caused by multiple sclerosis, a stroke, a malignant tumour, or other brain disorder.
Drinking plenty of fluids can help when dizziness is caused by excessive exercise, heat, or dehydration.
Once the underlying cause of dizziness is treated, most cases will clear up. It is rare for the dizziness to be a sign of a more serious health problem.
As you can see, not all dizziness, vertigo, or feelings of imbalance are caused by the inner ear (vestibular system). With so many more potential causes than listed here, we recommend you visit a health professional for an accurate diagnosis.
The type and severity of your symptoms can vary greatly, feel overwhelming and may be hard to describe. Functioning on a daily basis can be hard and not all the symptoms will be experienced by everyone, and other symptoms may be present.
Primary symptoms: vertigo, dizziness, visual disturbance, and/or imbalance and spatial disorientation, hearing changes.
Secondary symptoms: nausea and/or vomiting, a reduced ability to concentrate, muscle weakening, anxiety and fatigue.
While these symptoms might be unsettling, the good news is most of the common dysfunctions that cause them are usually successfully treated with physiotherapy. However, if you’re experiencing chronic or frequent symptoms, consult your doctor and we’ll work collaboratively towards your recovery. In rare cases, symptoms can be a sign of a more serious health problem.
How is Vestibular Dizziness Treated?
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is used to treat vestibular dizziness. VRT is a specialised form of therapy that has proven successful in alleviating both the primary and secondary symptoms caused by the most common vestibular disorders.
VRT is a physical and exercise-based approach. It uses specially designed head, body, and eye exercises to retrain the brain. Most VRT exercises involve some form of head movement.
Most types of vestibular dysfunction are short-term, and curable with VTR, the exceptions being for the less common inner-ear disorders, for example, Ménière’s disease.
VRT physio and you
The form of VRT treatment that’s right for you will depend on your symptoms, medical history and general health. An initial assessment will help us personalise your treatment. Your Phytness HealthCare plan may involve accompanying examinations by a doctor and diagnostic tests, plus exercises that we perform, as well as some you may need to do at home.
We aim to re-calibrate your balance while alleviating your symptoms of dizziness and vertigo. We do this through:
exercises to reduce your dizziness
eye-head coordination exercises
specific mobilisation techniques for the inner ear (specifically for BPPV).
You don’t need a doctor’s referral to get help, just the desire to get to the bottom of your dizziness and or vertigo symptoms, and obtain relief.
Start your journey to recovery, book a therapist trained in treating vestibular dysfunctions.
Types of Vestibular Dysfunctions
So, what are some of the conditions and disorders that have both symptoms of dizziness and vertigo? Of course, there are rare conditions relating to these symptoms. Here, however, we are focussing on the more common disorders.
To get an accurate diagnosis and treatment, book an appointment with our specialist physiotherapists.
Symptoms of chronic dizziness or imbalance can have a significant impact on your ability to perform the activities you need to do each day. Having vertigo can often cause dizziness.
The most common cause of vertigo and related dizziness is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
One of the most common causes of vertigo, BPPV is a disorder arising from a problem in the inner ear. Symptoms involve short spells of vertigo when moving your head, for instance, experiencing a short-lived spinning sensation when changing your head’s position in bed. These bursts of vertigo will be repeated, with each lasting for less than one minute. Nausea is commonly felt.
BPPV is a type of balance disorder along with labyrinthitis and Ménière's disease. It can be the result of a head injury, but often the cause remains unknown.
BPPV is often treated with some simple movements, commonly used in physiotherapy, such as the Epley Manoeuvre, which is also called the Canalith Repositioning Procedure (CRP). This manoeuvre involves a series of specifically patterned head and trunk movements performed by a trained professional. These manoeuvres must only be performed by a professional, who can safeguard against possible neck or back injuries.
These movements work to move tiny displaced otoliths (crystals of calcium in the inner ear involved in sensing gravity and movement) to a place in the inner ear where they can’t cause symptoms. CRP is hugely effective, with an approximate cure rate of 80%. There are also alternative maneuvers in the physiotherapist’s toolkit to assist.
Cervicogenic dizziness is characterised by sensations of imbalance, unsteadiness, disorientation, limited cervical range of motion (ROM) and neck pain. Sufferers can experience headaches. It can present in patients with neck problems that include cervical trauma, cervical arthritis, and more.
No current diagnostic tests are available to identify cervicogenic dizziness, so other potential causes need to be excluded first.
Cervicogenic dizziness will usually resolve with treatment of the neck problem but may require vestibular rehabilitation for a complete resolution of symptoms.
Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis
Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis are disorders that create inflammation in the inner ear as well as in the nerve connecting the brain to the inner ear. Viral infections are the most common cause.
The symptoms of Labyrinthitis are changes to hearing, as well as dizziness or vertigo. Labyrinthitis can cause hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Treatment depends on the probable cause.
You can get both over the counter or prescription medication for Labyrinthitis. We recommend that you see a specialist health professional such as a physiotherapist if symptoms persist. To treat Labyrinthitis, we provide vestibular rehabilitation exercises to retrain the brain to interpret the disordered balance messages being transmitted from the damaged inner ear.
Does any of this sound familiar? We’re trained in the vestibular system and addressing reasons for dizziness. We offer a health assessment, tailored treatment plans and services designed to suit your specific needs, plus, we’ll connect you to medical services and provide home-based treatments when needed. Book an appointment today.
Vestibular neuritis (inflammation of the nerve) symptoms include a sudden onset of a constant, intense spinning sensation that can be disarming and debilitating and can need bed rest. Secondary symptoms include nausea, vomiting, unsteadiness, imbalance, difficulty with vision and an inability to concentrate.
The condition may either pass or can be treated with medications such as anti-inflammatories. It can last a few weeks or can cause permanent symptoms. Physiotherapy is a very effective way of minimising the symptoms of this condition and can help prevent vestibular neuritis from developing into a more chronic state.
A vestibular migraine is considered to be the second most common cause of vertigo. A vestibular migraine is a problem of the nervous system that causes repeated attacks of dizziness (or vertigo) in people who have a history of migraine. Unlike traditional migraines, you may not always have a headache, making it hard to diagnose.
As physiotherapists, we have various diagnostic tests to help diagnose vestibular migraine. Once diagnosed, there are several ways we can help. Our priority is to educate you on the nature of the condition. The first treatment plan usually hinges on lifestyle modifications, which may include:
managing stress and fatigue
sleep and hygiene
avoiding common dietary triggers, including aspartame, MSG, caffeine, chocolate, red wine, hard cheese, and cured meats.
monitor hormonal fluctuations and barometric pressure changes
Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV)
MAV is usually characterised by head pain as well as other symptoms associated with a vestibular impairment, for example, dizziness, motion intolerance, spontaneous vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, tinnitus, imbalance, and spatial disorientation.
Patients are recommended to follow non-pharmacological treatment measures such as changing their diet, improving sleep, hygiene and avoidance of triggers. Vestibular rehabilitation is often included in the treatment plan when complications such as loss of confidence in balance or visual dependence occur.
An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumour growing on the vestibulocochlear nerve. Generally, the tumour grows slowly and can stay in the bony ear canal for decades. Early signs are problems with balance and hearing loss. People with this condition will often seek medical solutions such as surgery.
After surgery, customised VRT works well to help the patient regain confidence through improving balance and mobility.
Ménière's disease can trigger dizziness and vertigo, causing fluid to build up in the ear leading to symptoms such as feeling like the ear is full, hearing loss, and tinnitus. Ménière's disease is treated with a healthy low-salt diet, occasional injections, or ear surgery.
Phytness Healthcare is here to help you with your dizziness and vertigo
We’ve developed a reputation for being passionate about helping our patients get better. We are committed to longer consultation times and continuous staff education and training. We believe you should receive tailor-made programs, modern treatments and prevention based on your needs and research. With Phytness HealthCare you are choosing a team that cares about helping you reach your goals.
We offer the convenience of:
longer opening hours
8 am-7 pm Monday - Thursday
8 am - 6 pm on Friday, and
free easy parking at all clinics
HICAPS on-site health fund claims.
Book an appointment
If you are looking for quality physiotherapy, home visits, sports medicine or treatment, clinical pilates or remedial massage, book your appointment online or call us on (02) 4285 1725 to make an appointment.
The information in this article is general in nature and is intended for general educational purposes only. We recommend you book an appointment with your health practitioner to ensure you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment for your individual situation.