Have you felt extremely dizzy or nauseous for no reason? Ever stood up quickly and felt like the world was spinning around you, or that you couldn’t balance on your own your own two feet?
Feeling out of balance is not normal. It’s not a normal part of aging or living.
The reality is you may have one of several disorders that affect your vestibular system, which contains the parts of your inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. If these parts are damaged, it can cause sensations of imbalance, dizziness, vertigo and more.
It’s usually caused by a disease or an injury, but can sometimes be worsened by age, genetics or environmental conditions.
DOES IT AFFECT ME?
As many as 35 percent of U.S. adults aged 40 years or older – approximately 69 million Americans – have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association.
Many older adults suffer from improper balance, leading to frequent falls. The Vestibular Disorders Association estimates that each year, between 20 and 40 percent of adults over 65 who live at home fall.
The vestibular system particularly feels the effects of aging, and studies show adults begin to lose nerve cells in the system after age 55, causing the imbalance, dizziness and vertigo so many adults experience without ever putting a name to it.
If you have a vestibular disorder, you may have problems with your vision or hearing, with balance and spatial orientation, or you have feelings of vertigo and dizziness.
You’ve likely experienced sensations of spinning or whirling, or you feel as though you are lightheaded or floating. You may feel like you’re being pulled to one direction, or you find yourself stumbling. You might have problems with clumsiness, stability or motion sickness; the full list of symptoms can be found here.
ARE THERE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
The treatments are different for the various vestibular disorders, but the proven most successful form of treatment involves therapy conducted by a physical or occupational therapist. During this therapy, the clinician uses specific head, body and eye exercises to train the brain to work normally again, processing signals that will keep you stable on your two feet.
These exercises can include eye movements, head movements, shoulder shrugging, walking, hand-eye coordination activities and more.
The goal of the treatment is to identify the movements that cause the dizziness, and then repeat those movements. It sounds crazy – why would you do the movements that cause dizziness? But in order to get rid of the dizziness, you have to keep doing those movements until you no longer feel those symptoms.
Your diet might also be giving you vertigo. If you have Ménièr’s disease, which causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo, or secondary endolymphatic hydrops, which causes hearing loss, ringing in the ears or imbalance, you may want to take a look at what you’re putting into your body.
The Vestibular Disorder Association recommends eating a balanced diet in moderate amounts at regular intervals. Stick to meals and snacks of a consistent size, and eat around the same time every day without skipping meals. This regulates the body’s electrolytes and fluids, which, if unstable, can cause the sensations of vertigo and hearing loss.
You should also avoid foods and drinks that are higher in sugar, caffeine or salt content, drink lots of fluids, limit your alcohol consumption and avoid chemicals such as antacids, aspirin and Nicotine.
WHY TALK ABOUT THIS NOW?
The folks at the Vestibular Disorder Association want to reduce the time it takes to diagnose a vestibular disorder.
From Sept. 14 to 20, they are calling on all Americans to reach out to others about vestibular disorders. Find a Tidewater Physical Therapy clinic near you and you’re your own appointment for an evaluation. Share your personal story. Educate others about the number of people suffering from one of these disorders.
Helping people recognize the signs of a vestibular disorder earlier can lead to a quicker diagnosis and a healthier, dizzy-free lifestyle down the road.
The physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy can help you stay on your feet, prevent falls and get rid of that dizzy sensation.
Find a Tidewater Physical Therapy clinic near you and make your own appointment for an evaluation. A physical therapist can assess your gait, head rotation, balance, eye movements, your posture and your hearing function and response and then work with you to get you back to a balanced, symptom-free lifestyle.
Most Tidewater Physical Therapy clinicians hold Direct Access Certification in Virginia and can evaluate and treat a patient without a prescription from a physician.