What to do when the room is spinning?
As physical therapists, we often hear people complain of feeling dizzy, or feeling "like the room is spinning." For most people, these symptoms only last for a minute or two, so they tend to just ignore it as long as it doesn't get worse. However, there are a few things that are good to know when feeling dizzy, that can help you figure out what is causing it, and hopefully make it go away.
Overall, there are three main causes of dizziness:
- medication side effects
- BPPV (more commonly known as vertigo)
- vertebral artery occlusion
As we know, all medications have side effects, and some side effects are more severe than others. If you ever experience new onset of dizziness, make sure you check your medications for their side effects, especially if you are taking any new medications. Then be sure to tell your doctor about the dizziness to see if they may need to change your medication or your dose.
Another main cause of dizziness is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). When people have BPPV, they usually feel that the room is spinning, and it is triggered by positional changes such as turning your head, lying down in bed, or rolling over. BPPV is caused by an issue with the inner ear. There are canals inside the inner ear, which contain small crystals. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the crystals can become dislodged and move into different canals, which can cause the dizziness. Luckily, if this is the cause of your dizziness, it can be solved with simple maneuvers known as the Epley Maneuver or Brandtt-Daroff exercises. So be sure to tell your doctor or PT about these symptoms, so they can examine you.
A third common cause of dizziness, vertebral artery occlusion, is actually caused by your neck. There is a small artery in the back of the neck, called the vertebral artery, which supplies blood to the brain. When people have poor posture, or a history of injuries to their neck, this artery can get partially blocked, or occluded, which reduces the blood supply to the brain. This can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, and headaches. One way to test for this is to rotate your head 45 degrees and look up towards the ceiling. If this brings on the dizziness or makes it worse, the vertebral artery is likely contributing to the problem. Often this can be improved by varied postural exercises with your physical therapist, so make sure to tell them about it!
Of course, there are other causes of dizziness, but these are the three most common. If you are already seeing a physical therapist for something else and begin to experience symptoms of dizziness, make sure you tell your PT as they can often point you in the right direction!