Vertigo (dizziness) is an uncomfortable feeling of motion when there is no actual movement. The feeling of motion is commonly described as spinning or whirling, but it also may include sensations of falling or tilting.
Vertigo can cause nausea and vomiting. It may be difficult to maintain balance, walk, or stand.
Causes for vertigo include nerve, blood flow, or inner ear problems.
Infrequent episodes of vertigo may not require treatment. If vertigo is severe or frequent, treatment will depend on the specific cause.
Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a type of physical therapy used to treat vertigo. The goal of treatment is to minimize dizziness, improve balance, and prevent falls by restoring normal function of the vestibular system.
In VRT, the patient performs exercises designed to allow the brain to adapt to and compensate for whatever is causing the vertigo. The success of this treatment depends on several factors including the following:
- Age of Patient
- Cognitive Function (e.g., memory, ability to follow directions in order)
- Coordination and Motor Skills
- Overall Health of the Patient (including the central nervous system)
- Physical Strength
Vestibular rehabilitation therapy is designed by a physical therapist under the direction of a physician. In most cases, patients visit the therapist on a limited basis and perform custom-designed exercises at home, several times a day. As the patient progresses, difficulty of the exercises increases until the highest level of balance is attained during head movement, eye movement (i.e., tracking with the eyes), and walking.
According to the American Academy of Neurology, the most effective treatment for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) caused by ear crystals in the posterior semicircular canal, is a technique called the canalith repositioning procedure, or the Epley maneuver.
In this procedure, a physician or physical therapist assists the patient in performing a series of head and body movements, which move the calcium crystal out from the posterior semicircular canal and into another inner ear canal, where the body absorbs it. Another technique (called the Semont maneuver) also may be effective, but additional studies are needed.