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Dizziness & Imbalance

Physical therapy can help dizziness and imbalance

Dizziness and imbalance are more common than is often thought. While there are situations when dizziness or imbalance would indicate a need for a trip to the emergency room, most causes of dizziness are not life-threatening (unless you fall off a ladder while dizzy, or get into a car accident because of dizziness).  The most common causes of dizziness and imbalance can be treated conservatively with specialized physical therapy, called vestibular therapy.

Dizziness may be caused by disruptions in the “vestibular” component of the nervous system. 
The vestibular system uses information from the eyes, inner ear and joints in the spine and limbs to tell the brain how the body is moving or how the body is positioned in space.  Sometimes, this information is incomplete or distorted, causing dizziness, instability or a full loss of balance.  Although a stroke, a tumor, or a neurological condition, such as Multiple Sclerosis, could cause this, many times the cause of the dizziness is never identified.  For this reason, many people with these symptoms are frustrated without receiving a definitive diagnosis.  The good news is that, since vestibular therapy is based on the symptoms and examination (as unrevealing as it may be), the symptoms can still improve.

The purpose of vestibular therapy and balance training is to restore good communication between these sources of information and the brain. 
Therapy generally involves daily home exercises, exercises in the clinic several times a week, weekly maneuvers in the clinic, and, sometimes, treatment for neck pain which may be interfering with nerve signals in the spinal cord.

Length of treatment for dizziness and imbalance depends on the diagnosis. 
For example, dizziness due to an inner ear problem may take only 1 or 2 sessions, whereas imbalance related to aging may require 8-16 sessions spread over 2-3 months.  Ask your therapist for details on the estimated duration of your treatment.  Of course, the more diligent you are in your prescribed home exercises, the quicker you will return to more normal function!

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