Vertigo usually is described as a spinning sensation, whereas dizziness usually is described as "lightheadedness." Often, they have different causes and different treatments.
If you have vertigo accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms, immediately call 911 or emergency medical services (EMS) so that an ambulance can be sent for you:
Vertigo is the sensation of spinning—even when you're perfectly still, you might feel like you're moving or that the room is moving around you. Most causes of vertigo involve the inner ear ("vestibular system"). A number of conditions can produce vertigo, such as:
You also might have:
One of the most common forms of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, an inner-ear problem that causes short periods of a spinning sensation when your head is moved in certain positions.
Your physical therapist will use your answers to the following questions to help identify the cause of your vertigo and to determine the best course of treatment:
Your physical therapist will perform tests to determine the causes of your vertigo and also to assess your risk of falling. Depending on the results of the tests, your therapist may recommend further testing or consultation with your physician.
Based on your physical therapist's evaluation and your goals for recovery, the therapist will customize a treatment plan for you. The specific treatments will depend on the cause of your vertigo. Your therapist's main focus is to help you get moving again and manage the vertigo at the same time. Treatment may include specialized head and neck movements or other exercises to help eliminate your symptoms. Conditions such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo have very specific tests and treatments.
If you have dizziness and balance problems after your vertigo has stopped, your physical therapist can develop a treatment plan that targets those problems. Your physical therapist will teach you strategies to help you cope with your symptoms:
Physical therapy treatments for dizziness can take many forms. The type of exercise that your therapist designs for you will depend on your unique problems and might include:
In addition, your physical therapist might prescribe exercises to improve your strength, your flexibility, and your heart health—with the goal of improving your overall physical health and well being.
All physical therapists are prepared through education and experience to treat people with dizziness. You may want to consider:
You can find physical therapists who have these and other credentials by using Find a PT, the online tool built by the American Physical Therapy Association to help you search for physical therapists with specific clinical expertise in your geographic area.
General tips when you're looking for a physical therapist (or any other health care provider):