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by Lauren Hebert, DPT
Vertigo (dizziness) is a common problem that often causes great suffering. But that suffering is often needless because many causes of vertigo can be fixed. Vertigo can be caused by several problems.
One of the most common is a tiny stone that forms in the balance control system of the inner ear. This is known as BPPV (benign paroxysmal postural vertigo).
This tiny stone rolls around in the inner ear canals, bumping into very sensitive nerve endings that sense head position to control balance. This bumping of the stone against these nerve endings causes extreme dizziness.
BPPV is easily diagnosed with a simple head-positioning test. The stone can then be quickly cleared from the inner ear by a specific sequence of movements of the head. This is called the Epley Maneuver and is performed by specially trained physical therapists.
The success rate is 80 percent in one session and 90 percent by the second session. Results are often dramatic.
Other causes of vertigo include certain arthritic changes at the neck or TMJ (jaw joint), as these structures are important parts of the balance control system. These problems are often easily improved with simple exercises.
Viral infections of the inner ear is another cause of vertigo and can be difficult to treat.
A physical therapy examination can test for BPPV, evaluate the neck and TMJ, and identify other causes of vertigo, so that proper safe treatment can be suggested.
Physical therapists can also perform a falls-risk evaluation, which is especially important for older people, to measure their risk of falling. Corrective exercises can then be designed, often preventing devastating falls and fractures.
Older patients and those with diabetes or peripheral neuropathy often lack nerve sensitivity at their feet and ankles, resulting in poor balance control, leading to falls and fractures. Fractures, with their life-threatening complications, can often be easily prevented with a simple but important falls-risk evaluation.
This can avoid great suffering and enormous health care costs. For more information see www.smartcarept.com or