September 26, 2017

Help, I’m Spinning! Using Physical Therapy to Stop Vertigo

With eyes fluttering to open, she knew something wasn’t right. When Missie Wilmot’s world started spinning in every direction, she felt out of control. “Opening my eyes made it worse,” said Wilmot.

Vertigo is the feeling of spinning or dizziness, and it can be devastating. Brought on by slight movements of the head, vertigo can affect balance, walking and the ability to work. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting.

“I didn’t have any balance and couldn’t really walk much,” said Wilmot, who took a day off work when the spinning started.

The most common form of vertigo, called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), occurs when one or more of the tiny crystals in the inner ear – known as otoconia – become dislodged.

“Some patients remember a big sneeze or sudden head motion before their symptoms began,” said Grant Pierron, physical therapist at Transylvania Regional Hospital Rehabilitation Services.

Treatment starts after a thorough history and evaluation to confirm the root cause. Vertigo can be associated with head or neck injury, stroke, diabetes or inner ear damage due to infection.

“Once I confirm the ear crystals are out of place, it’s a fairly easy fix,” said Pierron, who gained additional training to identify and treat patients with this type of vertigo.

Pierron takes patients through a series of specific head motions or maneuvers to reposition the crystals within the inner ear to relieve their symptoms. Often, patients are better after just one treatment, said Pierron.

“I’ve never had another episode,” said Wilmot, who has been symptom-free for more than a year now.

Grant Pierron is a physical therapist at Transylvania Regional Hospital Rehabilitation Services, an affiliate of Mission Health.

For more information about the physical therapy services provided through Transylvania Regional Hospital Rehabilitation Services, call (828) 883-4967.