Our very own Phoenix physical therapy expert Michelle Keyes, DPT, PT, gives us her best advice on dizziness and how vestibular rehab can help.

Have you been suffering from dizzy spells, or noticed your balance has progressively declined? Many people believe that deteriorating balance as we age is normal and we should just accept it, but this is a common myth. We are here to set the record straight, especially for seniors who have been told there’s no hope.

In fact, there are many solutions to several common balance dysfunctions and most of them can be achieved with physical therapy.

To understand lightheadedness, we need to know where it originates. There are three major balance systems in our body: the visual, vestibular (inner ear) and proprioceptive systems. There are several causes of vertigo and each case is treated specifically based on its origin and diagnosis.

For example, visual impairment can account for headaches and dizziness. Our visual system can deteriorate as we age, but having regular checkups with an optometrist and wearing updated corrective lenses can improve a person’s visual system.

A vestibular system dysfunction is the primary source of vertigo, which can be treated with the Epley maneuver or vestibular habituation exercises. The Epley maneuver is a procedure performed by medical professionals that uses gravity to treat vertigo. Vestibular habituation exercises can also be prescribed to help relieve dizziness. These treatments are condition-specific, so patients would benefit most from being treated by a skilled physical therapist, like myself, versus self-diagnosing and trying at-home treatments.

Our proprioceptive system is located inside all of our muscles and joints, providing us with feedback to sense where our body is located in a space. The proprioceptive system can be impacted after sports related injuries, post-surgery, and by general muscle deterioration and deconditioning as we age and become more sedentary. As a physical therapist, I can create specific static and dynamic balance and exercise routines that will target your balance limitations and improve their overall function.

Foothills prides itself on its physical therapists performing detailed and comprehensive initial evaluations to create patient-specific treatment plans with goals to help return their patients to full function.

Balance evaluations include an examination of the patient’s three major balance systems, a physical therapy diagnosis, manual therapy interventions, and a tailored balance and exercise program. I give individualized home exercises during the course of their physical therapy treatments to maintain the progress they make during their treatment sessions.

I have had so many success stories helping patients who suffered dizziness and balance problems. Only a few months ago, a patient was referred to our clinic after turning in bed one morning and realizing the room was spinning all around her. Her vertigo complaints were so severe that she was unable to drive herself to her therapy appointment and could not walk without assistance. She had suffered from vertigo in the past, but it had been several years since her last episode.

After performing a comprehensive evaluation on my patient, I concluded that she was suffering from a positional vertigo issue and she was treated that day with an Epley maneuver. The patient returned the following day with her symptoms 50 percent improved! She only saw me for three additional therapy sessions before being discharged.

The patient was sent home with a specific home exercise program to prevent vertigo in the future, but was completely symptom free. She was even able to go on vacation with her husband the following week without any limitations!

It truly makes me happy to be changing lives at Foothills.

Our experts at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy know how to diagnose and treat vertigo, dizziness and lightheadedness. If you have questions about your dizziness, schedule an appointment today for your consultation! To learn more about what our therapists can do for you, follow our Foothills blog.