The Physio Co Tips: Vertigo
Vertigo is the feeling that you are moving when you are not, or it might feel like things around you are moving when they are not.
It is a symptom rather than a condition. Vertigo can feel similar to motion sickness, dizziness or feeling as if the room is spinning.
Vertigo is commonly caused by a problem with the way balance works in the inner ear, although it may also be caused by problems in certain parts of the brain.
Common causes may include:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) where certain head movements trigger vertigo
- Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection
- Meniere’s disease
Less often it can be associated with:
- Head and neck injury
- Brain problems such as stroke or tumours
- Certain medications
Ten signs of vertigo include feeling nauseated, vomiting, abnormal and / or jerky eye movements, headaches, sweating, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or hearing loss, loss of balance when standing or walking, and dizziness.
Most vertigo cases will resolve themselves without treatment. Antibiotics may be needed if you have an infection, or antihistamines can sometimes help with vertigo symptoms.
You should seek medical advice if you are suffering from vertigo, to first determine the potential cause.
In some cases, there are things you can do yourself to ease the vertigo or make life safer and more comfortable for yourself.
Self-care to help manage vertigo attacks:
- Lie still in a quiet, dark room to reduce the spinning feeling
- Move your head carefully and slowly during daily activities
- Sit down straight away when you feel dizzy
- Turn on the lights if you get up at night
- Use a walking stick if you’re at risk of falling
- Special exercises can be done to try to correct your symptoms
- Sleep with your head slightly raised on two or more pillows
- Get out of bed slowly and sit on the edge of the bed for a while before standing up
- Try to relax – anxiety and stress can make vertigo worse and can trigger vertigo episodes
- Avoid bending down to pick up items
- Avoid extending your neck – for example, while reaching up to a high shelf
- Avoid driving if you have recently had episodes of vertigo
- Do not operate machinery or climb ladders
How a physio can help
A physiotherapist can assist you with specific exercises and manoeuvres to help you treat your vertigo if you have BPPV. It is always recommended that you have a thorough assessment before starting any exercises for vertigo, to ensure they are safe for you.
Here are some simple exercises to try if you have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV):
1. Sit in a chair and keep your eyes fixed on a point on the wall in front of you
- Move your head right and left with a smooth motion (repeat 10 times)
- Move your head up and down with a smooth motion (repeat 10 times)
Move your head diagonally in one direction then in the other direction (repeat 10 times to each side)
2. Sit in a chair and keeping your head fixed this time, only move your eyes
Move your eyes right and left with a smooth motion (repeat 10 times)
- Move your eyes up and down with a smooth motion (repeat 10 times)
- Move your eyes diagonally in one direction and then in the other direction (repeat 10 times to each side)
3. Sit on the edge of your bed
- Lie down on your right side with your head turned to the left at 45 degrees and wait for 30 seconds
- Sit up again and wait for 30 seconds
- Lie down on your left side with your head turned to the right at 45 degrees and wait 30 seconds
- Repeat the above 5 times, alternating sides
NOTE: Please see your GP if you have persistent signs of vertigo, or if it keeps recurring.
Contact our friendly mobile physiotherapy team today. We’re always happy to discuss ways that you can improve the health and wellbeing of you, or your elderly Mum or Dad.
Article written by Karleen Scott – Team Leader / Physiotherapist (SA)