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Published August 16, 2023

Ever felt like the world is spinning around you, even when you’re standing or lying still?

If you answered yes, chances are you’ve experienced vertigo.

It’s not a pleasant sensation, and definitely one we empathise with. If you do suffer with vertigo, you’ve likely also tried a bunch of different potential remedies to put a stop to the dizziness.

Can a physio help with vertigo? Short answer: yes. Long answer: read on.


What is vertigo?

Vertigo is a type of dizziness which gives you a feeling of disorientation or that the room is spinning. It’s often the result of an inner ear problem, and is actually the false sensation of movement. You may feel like you’re tilting, spinning, or swaying, but that’s actually not the case.

Normally, the brain can skilfully combine messages it receives from the balance control areas in each of your ears. But if one side is causing you problems, these messages can get distorted – which can result in vertigo or dizziness.


What can cause vertigo?

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common form of vertigo, but it unfortunately often has no associated cause.
  • Vestibular neuritis is a result of inner ear inflammation, or inflammation of the nerve which connects the inner ear to the brain. Viral infection is often a common cause, and it can result in dizziness, unsteadiness, balance issues, and occasional vision and hearing problems.
  • Cervical dizziness is caused by upper neck stiffness and can often be present without the feeling of neck tightness or pain.
  • Vertigo can also be caused by vestibular migraines, anxiety, low blood pressure, or low blood sugar.


Vertigo symptoms

  • Spinning or swaying sensations
  • Feeling unbalanced
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sweating


How physio can help with vertigo

Vestibular physiotherapy is a specialised field that requires an individualised approach.

Here are some different exercises your vertigo physio might use.


1. Epley manouevre

This technique is commonly used for treating Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), which is one of the most frequent causes of vertigo. The Epley Maneuver involves a series of specific head and body movements aimed at repositioning displaced inner ear crystals called “otoconia.”


2. Brandt-Daroff exercises

These are home exercises designed for those with BPPV, helping to dislodge the problematic ear crystals. The individual is guided to sit on the edge of their bed and perform specific sets of head movements.


3. Vestibular Rehabilitation Exercises

Physiotherapists use a specific approach called Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) designed to alleviate symptoms of vertigo and other balance disorders. VRT is usually effective when the issue is due to inner ear problems. Through exercises and techniques aimed at calibrating your vestibular system, VRT can help you regain your equilibrium and ease those vertigo symptoms.

These exercises are tailored to address the specific balance issues a patient might have. They can include eye and head movements, or more advanced exercises like standing on one foot, walking heel-to-toe, or even practicing coordinated movements on a balance ball.


4. Gaze stabilisation exercises

Patients are trained to fix their gaze on an object while turning their heads or bodies. This is designed to improve the coordination between the eyes and the vestibular system, thus alleviating vertigo symptoms.


5. Habituation exercises

Habituation exercises aim to help individuals get used to specific movements or conditions that trigger their vertigo. For example, if looking up triggers symptoms, the physiotherapist might guide the patient through exercises that involve repeated upward glances.


6. Cawthorne-Cooksey exercises

These are a range of general exercises for balance and coordination. They can include simple tasks like focusing on a specific point while moving the head, or more complex activities like throwing a ball from hand to hand while turning around.


7. Functional training

This involves practicing daily life activities that are challenging due to vertigo. The therapist may simulate conditions that trigger symptoms and train the patient to manage them effectively. This can include activities like bending down, looking over shoulders, or even walking in dim light.


8. Neurofeedback

While less common, some vestibular physiotherapists may employ neurofeedback methods to help the patient’s brain adapt to the signals from the vestibular system better.


9. VOR adaptation exercises

The Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex (VOR) is crucial for maintaining vision and balance. These exercises often involve turning the head from side to side while keeping the gaze fixed, sometimes with the addition of complex tasks like walking or negotiating obstacles.


10. Sensory organisation techniques

These exercises aim to improve the integration of visual, vestibular, and sensory information to better maintain balance and spatial orientation.


Vertigo and physiotherapy: addressing common myths

One of the hurdles to effective treatment is misinformation. You may have heard that vertigo “will just go away on its own”, or that physiotherapy is “only for musculoskeletal issues, not for balance disorders like vertigo”.

These myths can prevent people from seeking the help they need. Let’s set the record straight: vertigo often doesn’t just ‘go away’ and may require targeted treatment.

Physiotherapy isn’t just about treating sports injuries or back pain; it’s a versatile field that includes specialised vestibular physiotherapy. This focuses directly on balance issues stemming from inner ear problems. So yes, if you’re asking, “Can a physio help with vertigo?” you should know that the answer is a resounding yes.


Get tailored physiotherapy treatment for vertigo

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely serious about finding a solution for your vertigo. So what’s the next step?

If you’re suffering from vertigo symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, contact a qualified vestibular physiotherapist in Perth. They can provide a diagnosis and create a tailored treatment plan that’s just right for you.

It’s not just about relieving symptoms; it’s about regaining control over your life. So don’t wait. Book an appointment with Integrity Physio Como today to resolve those disorienting symptoms.

Leslie Trigg

Director & Senior Physiotherapist at Integrity Physiotherapy Leslie Trigg, has over 15 years of experience in clinical practice. He has graduated with a degree in Human Biology (Anatomy and Physiology) from Curtin University in 2001 and later completed a Masters of Physiotherapy in 2007. He has tremendous experience in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic, neurosurgical and sports physiotherapy. In his spare time, he enjoys swimming, listening to music and spending time with his family.