Dizziness is a common health problem in adults, and vestibular system (inner ear) issues can be a cause of dizziness. The vestibular system helps people estimate where their body is in space. When the inner ear is not functioning properly, this can lead to decreased ability to work and increased risk of falls. Most vestibular disorders are not harmful; However, it is important to determine the cause of dizziness, as some dizziness or lightheadedness can be caused by a change in blood pressure or cardiac conditions. If you experience any of these symptoms it’s important to talk to your primary care provider about what could be the cause.
Contrary to what causes other types of dizziness or lightheadedness, vertigo is caused by either peripheral factors (inner ear) or central factors (brain). Peripheral causes of vertigo can include, positional vertigo (BPPV), vestibular neuritis, or Meniere’s Disease. Stroke, traumatic brain injury, Multiple Sclerosis and migraines are common central causes of vertigo. Positional vertigo is the most common peripheral vestibular disorder, which occurs when the crystals in the inner ear move out of place. Once you’ve been diagnosed, you may be referred to vestibular rehabilitation where they will evaluate you using different vestibular and balance testing methods. Based on your results, your caregivers will create a treatment plan designed to minimize dizziness, improve balance, and prevent falls using balance, gait and habituation exercises. Habituation exercises help you get used to and feel comfortable performing activities that might have triggered vertigo in the past. Vestibular rehab also teaches patients exercises to help their system adapt to and compensate for what is causing the vertigo.
Most cases of vertigo can be cleared up fairly quickly, but in cases where there has been a central issue, inner ear infection, or Meniere’s disease, overcoming vertigo can take longer. It’s important to understand that getting better can take time, but your care team will work alongside you to help you find your new normal. Cone Health Neurorehabilitation Center has an exceptional team of physical therapists and related healthcare providers who specialize in vestibular rehabilitation and other successful forms of therapy, to treat patients with vertigo throughout the community.
Jennifer Miller is a physical therapist at the Cone Health Neurorehabilitation Outpatient Center. She received her Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Elon University.