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Ask the Expert: Can physical therapy help my dizziness?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ Erika K. Merkel, M.P.T

Erika K. Merkel, M.P.T.
Physical Therapist
Sees patients at Marshfield Clinic Oakwood Center in Eau Claire.​​

​Question: Can physical therapy help my dizziness?

If you are experiencing dizziness or balance problems, first see your primary care provider.

You need to make sure the cause is not related to some kind of medical issue or medications you may be taking.

Your sense of balance comes from information your brain gathers from your eyes, joints and vestibular system.

The vestibular system is made up of five sensory organs in the inner ear that detect your body’s position and tell the brain whether you are moving or are stationary.

Fluid within three semicircular canals moves when you move and is still when your head is still.

The two other sensory organs contain calcium carbonate crystals that move during head motion and tell the brain about head motion relative to gravity.

The brain compares information from these five sensory organs to information it is receiving from your eyes and joints.

When the information does not match, you feel dizzy.

A physical therapist specially trained in vestibular rehabilitation can help with specific exercises to treat dizziness or imbalance.

In some cases, treatment involves a series of guided head and body movements to reposition the crystals.

Other patients improve with exercises for gait and balance retraining and gaze stabilization exercises to improve eye coordination during head movement.

All will help the brain readjust to the conflicting information it’s receiving from the vestibular system.

Treating dizziness and balance problems early can decrease the risk of falls and injuries.

You may no longer be participating in daily or social activities because of fear of falling.

Over time, this can lead to deconditioning and muscle weakness, which can impact your ability to enjoy life and live independently.

A physical therapist trained in vestibular rehabilitation will help address these issues.​


Marshfield Clinic provides Physical and Occupational Therapy​ in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location. ​​