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Dizzy, unsteady or in pain? The power of movement can get you back on track

By Aleisha Theisen, PTA and NBC-HWC

While it may seem intuitive to rest and avoid movement when faced with pain, dizziness, imbalance or injury, emerging research suggests the path to healing often lies in embracing movement positivity. This philosophy recognizes that the human body possesses a remarkable capacity for adaptation and repair, and that movement training — when guided by a specialized physical therapist like those at FYZICAL-Forest Grove — is not only safe but essential for promoting recovery.

How Movement is Healing

When we experience pain, dizziness, unsteadiness or injury, our instinctual response is often to stop moving or limit our movement in an effort to avoid exacerbating symptoms. Our fight-or-flight nervous system may even go into overdrive, making us fear further injury if we move much at all. However, this approach can lead to further dysfunction, as the body becomes deconditioned, and movement patterns are compromised. In contrast, the concept of movement positivity advocates for an active approach to rehabilitation, harnessing the healing potential of movement to restore function and alleviate symptoms.

One area where the power of movement is particularly beneficial is in the treatment of vestibular disorders and concussions, which can cause dizziness and imbalance. Traditional approaches to managing these conditions used to involve bed rest and medication that merely masked the symptoms, rather than improving them. However, research has shown that physical therapy methods focusing on vestibular rehabilitation and guided exertion training can be highly effective in reducing symptoms and improving function long term.

Vestibular rehabilitation incorporates a combination of exercises and techniques designed to promote central nervous system compensation for vestibular dysfunction. By challenging the vestibular system through specific movements and exercises, therapists facilitate adaptation and retraining, helping patients regain their balance and confidence in movement.

At the heart of vestibular rehabilitation lies the concept of neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to reorganize and adapt in response to experience. Through targeted exercises and repetition, physical therapists can harness the brain's plasticity to promote rewiring and compensation for vestibular deficits. This not only leads to symptom relief but also enhances overall function and quality of life for patients.

Beyond vestibular disorders, movement positivity is a guiding principle in the treatment of a wide range of other conditions addressed by our PTs at FYZICAL-Forest Grove. Pelvic floor disorders, such as urinary incontinence or pelvic pain, can be exacerbated by sedentary lifestyles. Physical therapy interventions focus on restoring pelvic floor muscle function through targeted exercises and behavioral modifications, empowering patients to regain control and confidence in their movements.

Similarly, orthopedic injuries, muscle weakness, gait problems, and other musculoskeletal conditions can significantly impact mobility and function. Our physical therapists address underlying impairments through progressive strengthening, range of motion, and balance exercises, capitalizing on the body's innate capacity for adaptation and repair.

FYZICAL-Forest Grove’s Customized Approach

Movement positivity recognizes the inherent healing potential of movement and embraces an active approach to rehabilitation. By harnessing the power of neuroplasticity and leveraging targeted interventions, our physical therapy team offers a pathway to recovery and restoration of function for individuals facing a wide range of musculoskeletal and neurological challenges.

Our physical therapists start by evaluating each person to determine their unique needs. Their physical therapy sessions and home exercise program will typically include activities and exercises that challenge patients in a gentle but doable manner. That little bit of challenge is what pushes into the neuroplasticity zone and encourages the brain and body to adapt, improve and get stronger. Safety is a top priority, so we have advanced tools like the Solo Step Overhead Track System, which allows patients to challenge themselves while being safely harnessed. 

If you’ve been feeling like your world is getting smaller due to dizziness, pain, unsteadiness or injury, FYZICAL-Forest Grove is here to help. We are ready to partner with you and use the healing power of movement to regain stability, get stronger, feel better and jump start a healthier lifestyle. Want to set up an evaluation? Call us at 503-357-1706.

Aleisha Theisen is a physical therapist assistant and a board-certified health and wellness coach.

Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.