Dizziness and Balance Problems Can Be Resolved with Physical Therapy


Whoa! Have you ever experienced a dizzy feeling when you bend down to pick up objects, look overhead, roll over in bed, or wash your hair in the shower?  Do you experience dizziness while riding in the car, grocery shopping, or when walking in the dark? If you answered, “Yes!” to any of these questions you may have some form of dysfunction in your vestibular system—the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved in controlling balance and eye movements.


Disease or other limitations in your vestibular system can result in vestibular dysfunction causing dizziness and imbalance. This is quite a common problem for people of all ages. However, research shows that approximately 35 percent of American adults over 40 years old have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction. In fact, dizziness is one of the most common reasons that people visit their primary care physician. If left untreated or treated with only medication to reduce symptoms, those with vestibular dysfunction can experience limitations in their lifestyle and in what activities they can do. Sadly, this reduction in activity may cause a cycle of chronic ineffective function of the vestibular system.


The good news is there are other helpful treatment options available. Physical therapy, provided by a therapist trained in vestibular rehabilitation, can be a very effective and efficient way to treat vestibular dysfunction. Starting with a detailed evaluation of your vestibular system that includes an analysis of head and eye movement activities, movements in and out of different positions, and a balance assessment, you can develop a treatment plan to relieve symptoms.


Physical therapy is particularly effective for treating the most common vestibular disorder, Benign Paroxymal Positional Vertigo (commonly referred to as simply “vertigo”) which results from a blockage of the normal fluid flow in the canals of the inner ear.  This reduction in fluid flow on one side of the body creates a sudden, acute and intense episode of dizziness with certain movements or positions (such as looking overhead, rolling over in bed, or transitioning from sitting to lying down). A trained physical therapist can easily evaluate an individual for this condition by placing them in different positions and analyzing their response. To relieve vertigo symptoms, a physical therapist will perform hands-on treatment to flush fluid through the ear canals, restoring normal fluid flow and eliminating the imbalance.


Physical therapy treatment for vestibular rehabilitation focuses on restoring the connection between the inner ear and the brain to reduce symptoms and enhance the overall function of the vestibular system.

Generally, the length of treatment varies from just two visits to up to four weeks, depending on the cause and the length of time an individual has been experiencing symptoms. Treatment may include hands-on techniques, an exercise prescription, and temporary activity modifications to address any specific issues.


Often, people suffering from dizziness and imbalance experience a diminished quality of life—sometimes for years before they seek treatment. If you struggle with chronic or acute vestibular symptoms it is worth talking to your doctor, or a physical therapist trained in vestibular rehabilitation, to receive the treatment recommendations that will allow you to regain your balance and live a full and active life.


Jonathan Parker is director of clinical services at 3D Physical Therapy and Sports Training which provides functional physical therapy and sports performance training at its Adrian and Tecumseh, Michigan clinics. For more information about 3D PT, please visit www.mi3dpt.com.