The sudden feeling of dizziness that we sometimes feel in intense situations is called “vertigo.” Unfortunately, people with vestibular system disorders experience this sense of imbalance frequently, sometimes multiple times a day. That’s because their vestibular systems are damaged. This system, located within our inner ears, is made up of very small structures. These structures tell our brains what direction/speed our heads are moving in. Hence, they oversee our balance. Patients with this condition don’t have fully functioning vestibular systems. Certain areas of their brains or the nerves that supply the information from the ear are damaged.
There are two types of effects patients of this condition experience – subjective and objective. In the first one, patients feel they are moving. The latter makes the patients feel they are static, but everything around them is moving. Irrespective of the effects, patients of this condition must seek immediate medical attention. Physiotherapy is a highly effective way of curbing the worst symptoms of this condition.
The sudden feeling of dizziness that we sometimes feel in intense situations is called “vertigo”. Patients with this condition don’t have fully functioning vestibular systems.
Symptoms of Vertigo
This condition is episodic. Episodic attacks can develop suddenly. They can last for a few seconds, minutes, or longer. Here are some common symptoms patients of this condition feel:
· Changes in hearing or loss of hearing
· Confusion for brief moments throughout the day
· Sudden feelings of delirium, followed by lethargy
· Facial weakness or part-time facial paralysis
· Difficulty focusing the eyes
· Loss of consciousness in unexpected situations
· Difficulty swallowing
· Hallucinations and delusions
· Progressive numbness in the legs
· Slurred speech
· Abnormal pupil sizes
· Nonreactivity to light
· Loss of muscle coordination
· Severe headaches
· Motion sickness
· Postural instability
Different people develop this condition for different reasons. Physiotherapists conduct comprehensive assessments to determine the causes in each patient. Certain tests may confirm the condition (e.g., MRI scans). Physiotherapists use the information from these tests to devise treatment plans that ensure this condition doesn’t become an ongoing issue. Some causes include:
· Vestibular Neuronitis or inflammation in the vestibular nerves. This inflammation negatively impacts the inner ear’s ability to send messages to the brain.
· Traumatic head injury causing bleeding in the brain
· Sudden movement changes (e.g., changing your direction while playing sports)
· Exposure to toxic substances (e.g., asbestos poisoning)
· Brain tumors
· Multiple sclerosis, a condition that affects the spinal cord and the brain causing coordination and balance-related difficulties
· Psychiatric disorders
· Side effects of medications like anticonvulsants
Many patients’ struggles with this condition improve over time, without any treatment. But, when patients start experiencing long and repeated episodes for many weeks, they require emergency medical help. Patients must describe what they’re feeling and how they’ve experienced the episodes to their physiotherapist. Physiotherapists conduct several tests and physical exams and create customized treatment plans based on the data they collect. Some unavoidable symptoms include –
· Poor eyesight
· Deteriorating hearing
· Deteriorating balance
· Severe headaches
· High fevers
· Constant weakness in limbs
· Inability to walk and speak properly
· Passing out multiple times a week
· Severe chest pain
Here are the major risk factors for this condition:
· People with long-lasting inner ear problems are likelier to suffer from severe balance disorders
· Brain or head injuries
· Females, especially older females, are likelier to experience multiple episodes
· Use of substances (e.g., alcohol, drugs containing fentanyl) that can cause faintness
· Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients are likelier to suffer from this condition
· Previous history of vestibular neuritis due to injuries, health conditions, etc.
· It’s not always possible to prevent getting this condition as most risk factors are beyond human control. Not treating vertigo may make its symptoms worse with time. Patients may experience long-term health complications such as immobility, paralysis, and permanent loss of balance.
Despite being bothersome, this condition can be easily prevented. Physiotherapists usually teach their patients home remedies designed to prevent/reduce the risk of episodes. Here are some helpful practices physiotherapists recommend:
· Avoiding caffeine
· Avoiding tobacco products
· Avoiding dehydrating items like alcohol
· Consuming herbal supplements
· Taking anti-nausea medicines (prescription)
· Vestibular rehabilitation exercises
Physiotherapy is a highly effective way of minimizing the symptoms of this condition.
· Physiotherapists conduct thorough exams of the patient’s postural control and oculomotor functions. They conduct motion sensitivity assessments to determine the severity of the condition. Then, they create customized physiotherapy programs to specifically address the symptoms of the patients. Here are some common physiotherapeutic treatments:
· Balance boosting exercises – These exercises aim to reduce the patient’s constant feelings of dizziness. These feelings inhibit the patient’s walking and standing capabilities. So, addressing these difficulties using basic physical therapy treatments is the first step of the treatment plan.
· The Epley Maneuver – Physiotherapists use this technique to reduce the risk of episodes. It includes relocating the disruptive crystals inside the vestibular system (otoconia pieces). Physiotherapists use massage and nerve maneuvering techniques to move these crystals. They relocate the crystals to areas where they don’t trigger any symptoms.
· Vestibular Rehabilitation Program – This program involves a series of special exercises. They’re designed to naturally revitalize the vestibular system. Some exercises in these programs include activity adaptation exercises, neck mobilizations, and balance retraining.
Many disorders or diseases can trigger symptoms of this condition. Some of them include - vestibular neuritis, strokes, head injuries, neck injuries, and Meniere’s disease.