Misconceptions and vertigo
If you’ve been told you have “vertigo” by a medical professional, friend or family member – this may be true – but you should not confuse this with a diagnosis.
Vertigo relates to the symptom of feeling like you are spinning or the world is spinning around you. This is contrasted by the term “dizziness” which is more of a vague sense of imbalance, wooziness or light-headedness.
Now chances are – if you were diagnosed as having vertigo then the chances that you were treated effectively are likely slim. This is because it is important to know what is causing your vertigo in order to treat it effectively.
So what are the causes of vertigo?
There are many causes of vertigo which require detailed examination by your physiotherapist or medical practitioner trained in vestibular rehabilitation in conjunction with specialists such as ENT/neurology/neuro-otology/audiology.
The main types of vertigo we treat with physiotherapy are those falling in the categories of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and vestibular hypofunction.
In brief BPPV relates to a condition in which small crystals within the inner ear (called otoconia) break free into a space called the semi-circular canal. This canal allows the brain to sense acceleration and direction of head movement. When the otoconia break off into this canal the brain senses acceleration even once you have stopped moving causing – you guessed it – vertigo.
Vestibular hypofunction on the other hand relates to a wide range of conditions which affect the blood or neural supply to the inner ear on one or both sides. Conditions under this umbrella include vestibular neuritis, labyrinthitis, Meniere’s and more. The change in the conductivity of the inner ear impairs the reflex which normally keeps the eyes stable when moving your head and when looking at things in your visual field causing – you guessed it again – vertigo.
Ok great so how can I fix it?
After detailed assessment by the right combination of medical practitioners and/or physiotherapist, treatment will depend completely upon the findings in the examination and the underlying diagnosis.
BPPV is treated using specific head positioning techniques, while hypofunction involves an array of eye stability, balance and desensitisation exercises.