Dizziness is the Worst - Breakaway Physical Therapy
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Dizziness is the Worst


Have you ever felt dizzy?

Did you hear me? What’s going on inside your ear?

Have you been dizzy lately and have no idea what is going on with your body or head? Like the world has tipped on its axis and the room was spinning?

Did you go to see your primary care, who then sent you to the ENT? Then the ENT told you go to PT for vestibular treatment? And you thought, what in the world does that mean?

Why would you go see a PT for dizziness and HOW will that help?

Are you scared, feeling like there is more going on with your body and don’t understand WHY you are dizzy??

It may surprise you to hear that you are not alone. Many people suffer or have suffered from dizziness or vertigo. Thankfully it can be an easy fix with physical therapy and we are going to talk more about what is going on with your body.

So let’s talk about dizziness and how that is related to your inner ear. I know that sounds wild and crazy that our ear can be responsible for us feeling so awful.

Dizziness is no joke and something that no one wants to feel. You can feel nauseous, feel off balance, have a headache, sensitivity to light or noise, shortness of breath, sweating, racing heart, feel like your head is spinning and more that are ALL related to your vestibular system.

So, have you ever wondered what was going on inside your head that is making you feel so dizzy?

A common misconception is that your brain is what is making you feel dizzy, but in fact it is your inner ear. At the end of your ear canal, deeper into your skull sits your inner ear. We call it a labyrinth based on how it looks.

Ear Diagram

The inner ear is kind of like the control center for our vestibular system and it controls our equilibrium and balance. When there is something wrong or out of place in the inner ear, we can feel dizzy.

There are tiny crystals in our ear called otoconia that sit in a pocket in our inner ear called the utricle. At times, these crystals can dislodge from that pocket and move into one of the 3 semicircular canals in our inner ear.

These canals contain fluid that adjusts as we move our head and body in order to maintain our equilibrium. When the crystals move into one of those canals it disrupts that fluid, making it more turbulent and causing us to feel dizzy. We call this Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV.

BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo, which is a false sense of spinning or movement that will cause us to feel dizzy. This can be caused by head trauma (even a mild injury), high intensity exercise, keeping your head in the same position for a prolonged period of time (at the dentist, hairdresser, strict bed rest), inner ear diseases, migraines and more.

Another way to think about this is to think about grapes on a vine meaning the crystals in our inner ear are like grapes hanging on a vine. When the grapes are freshly bought from the store, they stay on the vine pretty well. The grapes are full in size and hang nicely off the vines. However, as time goes on the vine starts to dry out and the grapes are more likely to fall off of the vine. Our inner ear can become “dried out” just like the vine due to a number of things. Dehydration, after a sinus or ear infection, a response to certain medications or just natural aging can all have an effect on how well the crystals stay in the pocket…or how well the grapes stay on the vine.

When you feel dizzy, a vestibular physical therapist can perform different tests to figure out if the crystals have in fact become loose and entered a canal. They can also determine which canal the crystals are in to better treat you. By taking you through different positions the physical therapist can re-position the crystals back into the pocket, resolving your dizziness, and making you feel much better.

Then there will be exercises and movements that you can practice at home to keep the crystals in the right place and keep your dizziness at bay. No one wants to feel dizzy, feel like their head is spinning, be nauseous, off balance, fall into walls, have trouble concentrating and more!

Now that you understand what is going on inside your ear, I want to give you some tips for what to do that will help IF you are feeling dizzy!

Use a walking stick or cane if you feel like you are going to fall

  • Turn on the lights when you get up at night
  • Night lights are really helpful to make sure that you can see properly at night
  • When you are dizzy, there is a possibility that you will be off balance and that can lead to falls. Make sure you are as safe as possible with moving around to prevent injuring yourself.
  • You will not have to use this cane forever, remember that safety is the key as you heal!

Quick movements are the worst and will definitely set off your dizziness!

  • Take extra time and plan for extra time when you are going places
  • Be careful with movements that trigger your symptoms and prevent them when you are able
  • Sometimes looking up OR to either side will set off your dizziness. Initially prevent these movements until you get the help that your body needs.
  • Ask a friend or family member to drive you to your appointments
  • Remember that you will need to turn your head while driving, which can have a strong potential to make you feel more dizzy. This will cause driving to be challenging and potentially unsafe for short term.

Sit down when you start to feel dizzy. Allow the symptoms to pass and then move slowly!

  • Stop turning your head and quiet your breathing
  • When we feel sick or dizzy, our nervous system can go into overdrive. Quiet your body with deep breathing (ask us how to use diaphragmatic breathing to help)

If your dizziness or spinning is severe, lie down in a dark, quiet room to help reduce all your symptoms (again quieting the entire system)

Stay hydrated…drink more water!

  • Dehydration is the number one correlation with a common condition that causes dizziness, BPPV (for more on information on the common causes of dizziness including BPPV, read more here https://www.breakawaypt.com/dizziness-that-just-keeps-coming-back/)
  • Our vestibular system will be dried out when our sinuses are dry that can cause problems and symptoms of dizziness or spinning
  • This will happen with sinus infections, seasonal allergies and more
  • Place a humidifier in your room at night to help

Being on more than 4 medications is the 2nd correlation with getting BPPV

  • Check with your primary care provider about all the medications that you are on and their possible affect on you getting BPPV

When you are dizzy, avoid laying fully flat when you sleep. Prop yourself up on some pillows so that your head is not flat on the bed or table.

  • Our inner ear sits at 30 degrees upward and is underneath our eyes
  • This is why our sinuses play a big role in the vestibular system due to how close they are together
  • You will not have to lay down at 30 degrees inclined forever. This is just to get your system calmed down and give it a break.
  • We want the crystals to settle down and adhere back to the wall of the canal

Avoid bending forwards to pick things up off the floor

  • This can set off your dizziness and make you feel MORE off balance

When you wake up in the morning, sit on the side of the bed for a couple of minutes before you stand up to start walking

  • Allow your body and inner ear to adjust to the change in position
  • While sitting on the side of the bed, pump your ankles up and down to get some blood circulation going before standing

Talk with your physician about supplementing your diet with Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D helps with the absorption of the crystals in your inner ear and will help to reduce your symptoms quicker

Seek out professional help! 

Why wait when you can be seen by your neighborhood PT today to be able to get you back feeling balanced and on your feet walking without running into walls.

You are also more than welcome to call us first to talk with one of our vestibular specialists to be able to better understand what is going on with your body and how PT can play a role in changing your life.

Life is short and certainly not fun when you feel awful…call us today at 410-721-6333!

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Shaina Clemons

Shaina Clemons

Shaina is the founder and owner of Breakaway Physical Therapy.  She received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore, along with a Bachelor's degree from Towson University.   Shaina is an Ironman triathlete, with a love of all sports. Exercise is her passion, which plays an important role in both her personal and professional life.  In her free time, Shaina enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.  Shaina's love of snowboarding led her to her career choice many years ago. 
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