Dizziness is a common problem, especially among older adults. In fact, for people over the age of 65, dizziness is one of the most common reasons for doctor visits and hospitalizations. Regardless of the cause of dizziness, the sooner you get help, the better. Physical therapists help people experiencing dizziness ease their symptoms, reduce their risk of falling, and get back to the activities they enjoy.
What is Dizziness?
Dizziness is a feeling of spinning, floating, or lightheadedness. Dizziness, and the balance problems that may come with it, can be caused by many factors, including:
- Inner ear disorders (vestibular disorders) such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
- Injury or trauma to the inner ear.
- Disruption in the network of nerves between the inner ear and the eyes that helps to stabilize our vision.
- Conditions such as low blood pressure or low blood sugar.
- Use of many medications, vitamins, or supplements.
- Diseases such as arthritis in the neck or diabetes.
- Brain disorders such as Parkinson disease or stroke.
How Does It Feel?
Some people have a spinning sensation (vertigo) that happens when they change their head position. Others have a general feeling of unsteadiness, a rocking sensation as if on a boat, or lightheadedness. Dizziness can result in:
- Difficulty walking.
- Feeling tired.
- Decreased ability to concentrate.
Above all, dizziness can increase the risk of falling — a serious health concern for older adults. The earlier you get treatment, the better.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
The good news is that most dizziness and balance disorders can be successfully treated. Dizziness and balance problems are certainly not an expected part of aging.
Your physical therapist can perform tests to determine the cause of your dizziness and assess your risk of falling. There is often more than one cause of dizziness and imbalance. Depending on your test results, your physical therapist may recommend additional testing or a consultation with your physician. They also may refer you to a specialist.
Your physical therapist will create a personalized treatment plan for you based on your medical evaluation and your goals for recovery. Their primary focus will be to manage your dizziness and help you get moving again.
During your recovery, your physical therapist will teach you strategies to help you cope with your symptoms. To design your treatment program, they may ask you:
- Do certain activities or chores around the house cause you to become dizzy? Your physical therapist may show you how to perform these activities in a different way to help reduce the dizziness.
- Have simple activities become difficult? Do these activities cause fatigue and more dizziness? Your physical therapist will help you work through these symptoms, so you can return to your roles at home and work.
Physical therapy treatments for dizziness can take many forms. Your unique program will depend on your unique problems. Your treatment plan might include exercises to:
- Improve your balance.
- Improve the network of nerves between the inner ear and the eyes that helps to stabilize your vision during head turns.
- Improve your strength, flexibility, and heart health to increase your overall physical health and well-being.