The term “vertigo” is often used incorrectly as a synonym for dizziness. When vertigo is lumped together with dizziness, confusion and poor treatment often result. Correct utilization of the word vertigo will allow patients to receive fast and appropriate clinical assessment by practitioners, so let’s clarify the difference.
Vertigo is clinically defined as the patient feeling as though the environment is rotating, or as though they are rotating within the environment. This is the only time the word vertigo should be used. The most common type of vertigo for which patients seek treatment is BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo). BPPV is caused by otoconia (or “ear rocks/crystals”) that become displaced and move into the wrong portion of the inner ear. BPPV is easily treatable utilizing canalith repositioning maneuvers. Proper physical therapy assessment is often the most successful way to treat BPPV because physical therapists can accurately diagnose the location of the displaced crystals and typically can resolve the vertigo symptoms within the first visit.
Dizziness should be defined much more globally and can include: vertigo, lightheadedness, imbalance, and disorientation. Other symptoms are often prevalent as well when a patient reports dizziness and should be relayed to a healthcare professional. This includes hearing changes, loss of balance/falls, blood pressure changes, historical head injuries, and nervous system changes. How often, how long, and to what severity these symptoms are occurring is also pertinent information that should be given to health care professionals. Properly defining what subset of dizziness, as well as any other corresponding symptoms the patient is experiencing, will best allow practitioners to direct appropriate care.
The cause of vertigo is unsolved. What we do know is crystals form in a person’s ear; these crystals can get lodged in one of the three rings within the ear canal, causing the imbalance. Certain positions, collectively known as the Epley Maneuver and created by Oregon ophthalmologist Dr. John Epley, help move the crystals to a location in the ear that does not affect balance. There are other maneuvers that can also be done to help alleviate vertigo, but the Epley maneuver is one of the more commonly practiced — and is the method I practice for treatment. After successfully treating hundreds of patients with vertigo, and seeing a 90 percent success rate of diminish symptoms after only 1 visit, I invite you to improve your quality of life with a visit to our office.
HARTZ Physical Therapy is happy to assess all patients that report dizziness. Our therapists are specially trained to treat a wide variety of dizziness disorders, including forms of vertigo, and are always willing to refer to another specialist, if indicated. Many insurance plans allow you to be seen as a Direct Access patient and therefore, do not require a physician’s referral prior to beginning physical therapy.