Physical therapy can help

Whitney Sharp, PT

Whitney Sharp, PT

There’s new help for people who suffer from dizziness. And, the exciting new way of helping people who have had vertigo for months sometimes can resolve symptoms in only one visit.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is the most common disorder of the inner ear’s vestibular system, which is a vital part of maintaining balance. Nearly 50 percent of all individuals over the age of 65 with dizziness have BPPV.

You may be asking, “How can I tell if I have BPPV?” In addition to dizziness, symptoms can include lightheadedness, imbalance, difficulty concentrating and nausea. Common movements that trigger the dizziness are tilting the head back to look up, getting into or out of bed, or rolling over in bed.

BPPV occurs as a result of otoconia - tiny crystals of calcium carbonate that are a normal part of the inner ear’s anatomy - detaching from an area of the vestibular organ and collecting in the semicircular canals. When the head moves and the crystals shift, false signals are sent to the brain causing vertigo and triggering nystagmus, or involuntary eye movements. Most commonly, this occurs at night for no known reason, leading to the start of the symptoms first thing in the morning.

Treatment for this condition involves a series of head movements that cause the crystals to be moved out of the semicircular canal back to where they should be located. This may be done several times until the abnormal eye movements go away. Head movements that cause dizziness are avoided 12 to 48 hours after treatments. When properly performed, the treatment is 70-90 percent effective in only one treatment session.

There also are other types of dizziness that can be helped by physical therapy. Vestibular rehabilitation also is very beneficial for other types of dizziness, including vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis, which are disorders of the vestibular system that are caused by an infection that inflames the inner ear or the nerves from the inner ear to the brain. This usually presents as a sudden onset of vertigo, dizziness, balance and vision difficulties, and sometimes hearing loss. With these disorders, vestibular rehabilitation helps to improve the function of the inner ear, resulting in a much-quicker recovery from the problem and better long-term prognosis for vestibular function.

Those who experience dizziness following a stroke or head injury also will benefit from vestibular rehabilitation and balance training to maximize recovery, decrease symptoms of vertigo and return to a more-normal level of functioning.

For more information about vestibular rehabilitation offered through Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation, call the Alcoa office on Joule Street at 865-977-1616. Additionally, outpatient rehabilitation services including aquatic therapy, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, athletic training, sports medicine and lymphedema therapy for cancer patients all are offered to pediatric, adult and geriatric patients in three other locations - at Cherokee on Sevierville Road in Maryville, at Springbrook on Associates Boulevard in Alcoa, and at Tellico West on Deer Crossing in Vonore.

Whitney Sharp is a physical therapist with Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation at Alcoa

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