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Vertigo got you in a spin? How physical therapy can help

Health

Vertigo got you in a spin? How physical therapy can help

Have you ever had the sense the room is spinning while you’re standing still? You may have been experiencing vertigo.
“For some people, it’s just this imbalance they can’t put their finger on,” says Theresa Paquette, senior physical therapist at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services at Conway. “For example, it may feel similar to the uneasiness that can accompany stepping off a boat. Or, people can suffer more severe symptoms, such as feeling like the room is spinning.”
Vertigo has a variety of causes, some of them quite serious — such as a stroke, heart attack or neck injury — that require immediate attention.
Damaged cranial nerves can cause vertigo, as can inner ear infections. Vertigo is also associated with “long COVID,” the set of symptoms that can persist after someone recovers from a COVID-19 infection. Vertigo also becomes more common with age.
If you experience vertigo, it’s important to seek medical care, Paquette says. That’s because vertigo can throw off your balance and sense of spatial awareness, potentially leading to injury.
“Usually, your primary care physician can lead you down the right road,” Paquette says. “In case of emergency, always call 911.”

Cause and treatments

One common cause of vertigo is known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. BPPV happens when sudden movements cause tiny crystals in your inner ear to shift. The crystals, known as otoconia, help your brain understand your body’s position in space and maintain your balance.
BPPV can happen when you move your head quickly, such as rolling over in bed or standing up too quickly. It can also happen after car accidents when an abrupt stop causes your head to move violently.

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Symptoms come on suddenly and can even be severe enough to cause you to vomit. They can persist for days or weeks if untreated.
To diagnose BPPV, a provider may perform an examination that involves looking into your eyes after putting you in a position that causes vertigo. Involuntary jerking eye movements reveal BPPV and even show which side of your head is experiencing the problem.
From there, you may be referred for treatment to a physical therapist like Paquette, who can put you through a series of maneuvers designed to shift those tiny crystals from where they’re causing problems to where they’re out of the way.

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“I think of it like a baby rattle. Essentially, what we’re trying to do is get the beads to go down the tube,” Paquette says.
One popular maneuver, the canalith repositioning procedure, is very effective at curing vertigo after one or two sessions.
Should physical therapy not solve the problem, you may be referred to a neurologist or other provider to pursue other treatment options.
Vertigo can reappear, and given the variety of causes, Paquette recommends taking any onset seriously. Severe vertigo accompanied by nausea or sweating should be considered an emergency and prompt a call to 911, she says.
“If you have a concern, be sure to discuss it with your physician,” she says.

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