» Vertigo


How does physical therapy treat vertigo and balance?

Vertigo, dizziness, and balance disorders are one of the most common conditions found amongst adults.  About 40% of adults in the United States will experience some sort of vertigo at least once in their lifetime.  One in four adults over the age of 65 will have a fall this year, and of those one in four, 38% will report an injury requiring medical attention.

What are the most common reasons why people fall?

  1. Decreased vision
  2. Lower body weakness
  3. Difficulty walking and/or maintaining balance
  4. Use of medications which side effects cause imbalance or dizziness
  5. Foot pain and/or improper footwear
  6. Hazards in the home

Physical therapists are experts in helping patients with pain management, avoiding surgery, recovering from injury, providing fall prevention strategies, improving balance, and mobility.  Physical therapists see a wide range of patients with orthopedic, neurological, cardiovascular, vestibular problems, and enable patients to return to the activities they love safely.  When you visit a physical therapist, they perform an evaluation which assesses the problem and provides an individualized treatment plan in order to allow patients to achieve their goals.  Most people do not realize that physical therapists can also treat conditions related to balance and dizziness.  This form of physical therapy is called Vestibular Therapy.  This type of therapy addresses inner ear and balance related diagnoses.  The most common cause of vertigo in patients over the age of 65 is BPPV, otherwise known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.

What is BPPV?

BPPV is a condition that results in crystals, also known as otoconia, in the inner ear moving from their place of origin to one of the canals in the inner ear.  When this occurs, patients will experience vertigo when rolling over in bed, bending over, looking overhead, or making quick head movements.  The vertigo will last seconds to a minute and may cause unsteadiness and nausea.  It is the easiest treatable vestibular problem.  A physical therapist will perform a test to determine the source of the vertigo in the inner ear and perform a rolling type of maneuver to relocate the crystals back to where they belong.  Unfortunately, a patient on average will see up to four different physicians before receiving a proper diagnosis.  In addition to treating the source of the vertigo, physical therapists will commonly have patients come in for follow-up sessions to ensure the vertigo is gone and treat lingering balance issues.    


Physical therapists are also important with regards to educating patients about ways to prevent falls which commonly occur in the home.  In addition to exercises, recommendations made be made with regards to home modifications, footwear, and reviewing medications.  Physical Therapists have the skill to evaluate patients and refer to other medical professionals when needed.  Don’t wait!  If you are experiencing dizziness, imbalance, weakness, and/or pain, schedule a physical therapy evaluation today.  Call us at 202-448-9662.