July 15, 2015
Vertigo and dizziness aren't a natural part of aging, and Marshfield Clinic Physical Therapy now offers techniques that can reduce symptoms for patients.
Vertigo is the sense of rotation, spinning or movement either of yourself or surrounding objects, and illusion of movement. Dizziness is the sensation of light-headedness, faintness, unsteadiness, swimming or floating. Both of these issues can become a greater problem with aging and the fear of vertigo or dizziness can limit physical and social activities.
"Dizziness is a quality-of-life problem that can and should be addressed," said Susanne Schaars, a physical therapist at Marshfield Clinic Woodruff Center. She recently completed training for a specific therapy that has produced better results for patients with dizziness or vertigo.
Some treatments, such as vestibular rehabilitative therapy, may help people feel like they've got their feet back on the ground.
"The new vestibular rehabilitative therapy I recently learned incorporates a rolling technique and has been especially effective in treating dizziness and head pain after concussions, as well as chronic vertigo," Schaars said. "It has been shown to also help with ringing in the ears, ear pressure, motion sickness, head and face pain following accidents, and improving balance."
The brain uses input from four sensory systems - inner ear (vestibular), skin pressure, vision and special nerve endings in tendons and joints - to maintain balance and orientation to surroundings. Vertigo occurs a conflict exists between signals sent to the brain by the inner ear and messages sent by the body's other balance/position sensing systems.
According to the Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA), dizziness is the second most common problem heard by physicians after low back pain. Physicians in the U.S. report a total of 5.6 million dizziness-vertigo visits a year.
"I've seen amazing results in my patients since I've started using this therapy," said Schaars. "People should know they don't have to learn to live with these issues. The other good news is patients can learn to do this procedure on their own after just a few sessions with me."
Many other things can cause vertigo and/or balance problems, such as medication or stroke involving the brain stem, and would be dealt with in very different ways. Less common causes of vertigo include a noncancerous growth in the space behind the eardrum.
Immediate medical attention is needed if vertigo occurs suddenly with loss of function. Vertigo occurring with loss of function in one part of the body can mean a problem exists in the brain, such as a stroke or transient ischemic attack.