Vertigo and dizziness are symptoms that can signal a health problem and create a risk of falling or having an accident, in addition to greatly affecting your quality of life in general. Vestibular rehabilitation through physiotherapy is an effective means of treatment to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Do you have vertigo or dizziness?
Often confused, vertigo and dizziness are two distinct symptoms. Vertigo is a feeling that your body or surroundings are spinning or swaying, while dizziness is akin to feeling lightheaded, as if you were on a boat or intoxicated.
These sensations are the result of conflicting signals sent to the brain from your vision, your balance system (via the joints of the body) and your vestibular system (inside the ear).
What causes labyrinthitis?
Labyrinthitis is caused by a bacteria or virus that creates inflammation in the vestibular system, the system responsible for balance in the ear.
A decrease in hearing or the onset of tinnitus (such as a ringing in the ears) are typical symptoms of labyrinthitis. We also usually notice loss of balance, nausea and vomiting. You may feel dizzy when moving your head or eyes, while reading, or when objects move in front of you, such as balloons or windshield wipers.
Labyrinthitis is often confused with vestibular neuritis (or neuronitis),, because the symptoms are very similar. Unlike labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis is not accompanied by auditory symptoms such as decreased hearing or tinnitus. It is usually caused by a viral infection.
Although it may take several weeks to fully recover from labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis, you will be able to gradually resume your activities as the symptoms lessen.
What are the possible causes of dizziness?
Dizziness is associated with many health conditions. For example, muscle tension, stiffness, or movement dysfunction in the neck can irritate the nerves in that area and cause dizziness and headaches.
Damage to the vestibular system (responsible for balance in the ear) can also cause dizziness. For example, the impaired function of the vestibular system in one or both ears, called vestibular hypofunction, can send erroneous messages to the brain and interfere with its balance management.
Lastly, it is common to feel dizzy after a concussion. This will gradually subside over time provided the recovery steps are followed. Ideally, you should consult a physiotherapist who will guide you so that you know exactly how and when to resume your activities.
What causes vertigo?
Vertigo is caused by specific damage to the vestibular system, which is located in the ear and is responsible for balance. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and Meniere's disease are examples of conditions that create vertigo. Contrary to popular belief, fatigue or overwork does not cause vertigo, but does lead to dizziness in some cases.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
A typical symptom of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a very intense but short-lived dizziness that occurs when changing the position of the head (when lying down in bed, for example). This type of vertigo frequently causes falls.
BPPV is caused by crystals in the inner ear, called otoliths, that break off and circulate in fluid from the ear canals. These canals are used to detect rotational movements of the head. The presence of crystals creates a much faster movement of the liquid and makes the brain feel like you have just spun around at high speed.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is more common in older people, but can occur at any age, especially after a fall or impact to the head.
Typical symptoms of Meniere’s disease are recurrent dizziness that can last for several hours, sudden hearing loss and/or tinnitus (such as ringing or ringing in the ears).
Meniere’s disease is a highly incapacitating vestibular system disorder. Its diagnosis is made by an ENT specialist in head and neck diseases, and requires several tests to eliminate other possible vestibular damage. Vestibular rehabilitation treatments through physiotherapy are recommended to increase your functional abilities and your safety.
Is vertigo permanent?
Most of the time, vertigo eventually disappears when the origin of the problem is treated. However, some rarer conditions, such as vestibular migraines or Meniere’s disease, can lead to recurring vertigo that is difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate completely. These conditions must be diagnosed by a doctor.
How are labyrinthitis, vertigo and dizziness treated?
Expert advice: Think safety and breathe
If you experience dizziness or vertigo, it is important to have strategies in place to reduce the risk of falls or accidents. It is better to use a cane in your movements to increase your stability and reduce loss of balance. It is strongly recommended to avoid driving a car.
Vertigo and dizziness generate anxiety. This is completely normal. When your symptoms appear, sit down, take deep breaths and wait for your symptoms to subside in a safe environment.
Vestibular rehabilitation through physiotherapy
Vestibular rehabilitation is an effective way to reduce vertigo and dizziness, whether they have appeared recently or have persisted for several months, or even several years. Even if your symptoms are severe, you can begin treatment and quickly benefit from advice and answers to your questions.
Physiotherapists with advanced training in vestibular rehabilitation can assess the functioning of your vestibular system, using various tests and equipment, in order to define the cause of your symptoms and perform the appropriate treatment techniques. Their work will reduce the intensity, duration and frequency of your vertigo or dizziness, or even eliminate them. Vestibular rehabilitation can also treat balance disorders and visual disturbances related to dysfunction of the vestibular system.
This approach is frequently used in collaboration with a doctor, an ENT specialist and even a pharmacist if a medication is required for your symptoms.