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Vestibular rehabilitation: An answer for vertigo


People who have vertigo, and are suffering from symptoms of dizziness, nausea, loss of balance and vomiting, may not know that there is a simple treatment that can cure those symptoms and allow them to return life to normal.

Physical therapists expertly trained in vestibular therapy can perform a single maneuver on patients experiencing these symptoms that 80 percent of the time will eliminate the vertigo.

“It’s a pretty amazing process, that you lay someone down, maneuver their head and body and their symptoms are gone,” said Wendy Webb Schoenewald, physical therapist and owner of WWS Physical Therapy and Vestibular Rehabilitation in Doylestown. Many times when we treat orthopedic conditions, it’s six weeks before they’re better, this it is very quickly resolved with a couple treatment with no drugs involved.”

The physical therapists at WWSPT are trained certified vestibular therapists who treat patients with vertigo.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, is a peripheral vestibular disorder involving the inner ear that causes spells of vertigo that typically last less than one minute, when the head is in certain positions. It occurs when crystals call otoconia are displaced into the canals.

Vertigo can make common, every day tasks, like doing sit ups, reaching for a kitchen cabinet, or bending over to pick something up difficult, inducing nausea and vomiting.

This can mean patients avoid doing things they love, like working out. For elderly patients, this can mean a loss of mobility and independence if left untreated because they may be afraid that moving around could cause them to fall.

For this reason, it is very important for patients to be treated immediately.

A trained therapist can confirm the diagnosis of BPPV.

The treatment for this type of vertigo involves manually moving the crystals out of the canals.

The most common treatment, the Epley Maneuver, will correct vertigo in one visit 80 percent of the time, when performed by a physical therapist who has been specifically trained in vestibular therapy. A skilled therapist will take the patient and lay them down with their head tilted to get the crystals to move. When dizziness subsides, and the crystals have settled into a new position, the therapist will move the patient a second time, to move the crystals farther along out of the canal. When dizziness subsides, the patient will sit up, and the crystals will have moved back into the correct location. To check and make sure all the crystals were put back correctly, the Epley Maneuver is performed a second time to confirm the patient isn’t still getting dizzy.

Even though the treatment is simple and effective, patients may put off contacting a therapist because they don’t want to feel worse before they feel better.

“We’re effective at keeping symptoms as minimal as possible to successfully treat BPPV,” Schoenewald said.

If you or a family member is suffering from vertigo or dizzy symptoms it is important to see your primary care provider, who can directly refer to a vestibular physical therapist.