Feeling Dizzy? Find Your Balance

A physical therapist answers common questions about dizziness, unsteadiness, and lightheadedness related to vestibular balance problems.

Just about everyone feels dizzy from time to time, but a true vestibular (balance) problem is characterized by a sudden sensation of unsteadiness, lightheadedness and feeling off balance.

Our physical therapist (PT) answers some common questions.

Q: What causes balance problems?

PT: The most common cause is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which is a displacement of debris or small crystal particles in the ear. When these crystals break off and travel into the wrong part of the ear canal, it creates a spinning sensation when you change position, such as rolling over in bed, looking up at the ceiling or bending over to tie your shoe.

How do I know if I have a balance disorder?

PT: We ask patients questions about dizziness, check their neck motion and give them a motion sensitivity test. The test may utilize balance technology, such as the EquiTest® System, which was developed by NASA to help astronauts re-acclimate to the earth’s gravity.

We diagnose BPPV by watching a patient’s eye movements as we place his or her head in different positions. These movements tell us what type of BPPV a person has and how to treat it.

How are balance problems treated?

PT: The treatment for BPPV often involves a positioning movement that maneuvers the crystals back into place. Other balance disorders are treated with various physical therapy options, including rehabilitation technology like the EquiTest®.

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