Dizziness is a common problem, especially among older adults. In fact, for people over the age of 65, dizziness is one of the most common reasons for physician visits and hospitalizations. Regardless of the cause of dizziness, the sooner you get help, the better.
Dizziness—and the balance problems that may come with it—can be caused by a number of factors:
Some people have a spinning sensation (“vertigo,”) which happens when you change the position of your head). Others have a general feeling of unsteadiness, a rocking sensation as if on a boat, or as “lightheadedness.” Dizziness can result in:
Above all, dizziness can increase the risk for falls, which can be a serious health concern among older adults.
The earlier you get treatment, the better. That’s because your brain and inner ears are more likely to be able to work together during the early stages, so that’s when you have your best chance for full recovery.
The good news: most dizziness and balance disorders can be successfully treated—and they are not an “inevitable” part of aging. Your physical therapist can perform tests to determine the causes and also to assess your risk of falling. Often, there is more than one reason for dizziness and falls in the same person. Depending on the results of the tests, your therapist may recommend further testing or consultation with your physician.
Based on your physical therapist’s evaluation and your goals for recovery, the therapist will customize a treatment plan for you. Your therapist’s main focus is to help you get moving again and manage the dizziness at the same time. Exercise and new ways to perform daily activities are the primary treatments.
During your recovery, your physical therapist will teach you strategies to help you cope with your symptoms:
Physical therapy treatments for dizziness can take many forms. The type of exercise that your therapist designs for you will depend on your unique problems and might include exercises to improve your balance, to improve your ability to focus your eyes and vision, and to “correct” differences between your brain and your inner ears. The inner ears tell the brain how the body is moving in relation to gravity. They also communicate information about head motion, which is used to coordinate eye motion.
In addition to those exercises, your physical therapist might prescribe exercises to improve your strength, your flexibility, and your heart health—with the goal of improving your overall physical health and well-being.