How to Get Rid of Dizziness — Natural Remedies for Vertigo Your Doctor Doesn't Know About
The other day a good friend was telling me about her new physical therapy job, and how excited she is because now she'll be able to help more patients who struggle with vertigo. This became a passion of hers after she dealt with it herself a while back. I know someone who has dizziness and nausea off and on, but his docs can't find anything wrong, so this really grabbed my attention. As Maureen was explaining more, I did what any blogger would do, I grabbed my camera and asked if I could videotape her explaining all of this, because I knew it could help so many of you out there!
By the way…
The very BEST thing about this blog is knowing that it has helped so many people with various health concerns over the years. My goal has never been to give medical advice, no way, there's too much I don't know. Instead I've only want you to consider more natural options for getting well, in contrast to the conventional advice that often keeps us sick or causes more problems than they help. So Maureen and I both want you to understand that we are not doctors, we only hope you'll use what you learn here to research more, and so you'll know the right questions to ask to find the answers to your individual health issue.
(See the transcript below if you'd rather read vs. watching.)
How to Get Rid of Dizziness Transcript:
Typically you are given a prescription, usually for Antivert, Meclizine, or Valium, which are all suppressants of your central nervous system, or your brain. They basically suppress your brain's response to dizziness so it dulls your symptoms, but it doesn't ever correct the problem. Really the best way to get it treated is to consult with a physician, typically always because you should have it ruled out that maybe there are some other causes. Cardiac or heart conditions can lead to dizziness, it can be a secondary effect of medication, it can be, in extreme cases, a sign of a brain tumor, that is rare but it can happen. So you should have those possibilities ruled out, but a very common cause of dizziness is a problem with your vestibular system, or your inner ear system. There are tiny calcium crystals that sit within your inner ear and they are meant to stay stationary, but sometimes something can occur, such as a fall, a car accident, or even a virus, and those calcium crystals become dislodged. They begin to move within these small bony canals within your inner ear and then when you move it leads you to feel dizzy. So if you tip your head back like to wash your hair in the shower, or to take the last sip of a drink out of a glass or a can, or you bend over to tie your shoe, or commonly to roll over in bed, those are common complaints that we hear from people with dizziness that an be coming from their inner ear. That commonly sets it off because when you tip your head back or tip your head forward it brings on symptoms of dizziness, and what happens is those small calcium crystals roll around in these canals and it sends a message to your brain that you moved in various positions that you actually did not. That condition is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. That problem can resolve on its own, but often for some people it can go on for a while, truly some people can walk around with that for 10, 15 years, never have it treated or taken care of and just have occasional symptoms of dizziness. The problem can also resolve on its own within a matter of a day or two, and it can commonly come and go. It also can be resolved on its own, but it can leave you with some residual effects, or some residual symptoms, so even though the problem is no longer occurring, you still feel dizzy with certain movements, or with certain positions. The optimal thing to do once you have ruled out other causes for your dizziness is to see a physical therapist who specializes in treating dizziness or vertigo, it's also called vestibular therapy. The physical therapist will rule out BPPV or a similar condition, there's a particular test that can be done to verify if you have that. If you do test positive for it, they can lead you through a technique that involves a change in head position. It sounds kind of hard to believe, but you basically relocate those calcium crystals back where they belong. It is highly effective, most people feel significantly improved within a few visits. Some people also have dizziness, though, due to cervical or neck problems. People can have dizziness associated with migraines, which we call migrainous vertigo. So if people have sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, you don't have to have a headache, but sometimes a headache or even just a wooziness in your head, along with the dizziness, often that combination: a sensitivity to sound, sensitivity to light and headache or an unusual feeling in your head associated with the dizziness, is commonly due to migrainous vertigo. Both of those problems also do well with treatment by a physical therapist who specializes in vertigo.
Kelly: How do you recommend someone find a physical therapist who knows this stuff?
It would be best to call around to your area physical therapy clinics and specifically ask if they have a therapist that treats these types of conditions. Even though someone graduated from a physical therapy program doesn't mean that they would feel comfortable treating this condition or necessarily be competent in this, it is considered a sub-specialty to physical therapy and so typically that person probably would've gone through some special training or continuing education courses to specifically treat the vestibular system. A lot of doctors are not aware that you can go to physical therapy for this, they're not aware that that is an option, so often they give people a prescription for medication. If they aren't responding to that, they will sometimes send them for an MRI of their brain, or possibly refer them to a specialist, such as an ENT or a neurologist, which isn't necessarily a bad idea, but sometimes that involves a 2-3 month waiting period and in that time I feel people could go to a therapist who treated this and feel significantly improved within a week or two.
(Added later when I asked Maureen for more info: There is a vestibular disorders website at vestibular.org, and people can look for a provider in their area…but not everyone is listed in there. In fact, our clinic in GR isn't listed and either are any of the therapists at my work, so it is not the most complete list of available providers. People should check the Internet for a vestibular clinic or therapist in their area. Lots of places will say they treat dizziness, but the patients should really look around for someone who specializes in that area. I hope that's of some help to you.)
Kelly: Tell us how did you get interested in this?
I have been a therapist for over 16 years, but probably 8 years ago I had a sinus infection and somewhere in that time frame I became dizzy, very dizzy. I had room-spinning vertigo, when I would sit up from bed, lie down in bed, roll over in bed, tip my head back to wash my hair in the shower, and even though I was a physical therapist, I did not feel comfortable treating this, so again, my doctor gave me a prescription for Meclizine, but I continued to be symptomatic on and off. I decided I was going to go to a continuing education course, because my doctor had referred me to an ENT but there was an 8-week waiting period. In that time I went to one continuing education course, I came home and started to treat myself and I felt significantly better within 2 or 3 weeks, and this was after having been symptomatic for probably 10 months, on and off, for 10 months. It wasn't constant, it wasn't every day, but it was pretty limiting for 10 months of the year. I was dramatically improved within just a couple of weeks of doing my own treatment and doing some exercises.
Kelly: This is going to help so many people, and this is all natural! Now I have another friend, who's Mom has Meniere's Disease…
That is not that common in the population, but we do hear about it from people, Meniere's Disease is a little more difficult. Typically people with Meniere's Disease do not go to therapy for treatment because their condition is a little more unusual, where they are highly symptomatic for a day or even several days in a row, but in between their flare ups they are symptom free. Their condition, again, stems from a problem within the inner ear, but it is not something that can be affected by physical therapy. So they could go to therapy, sometimes there are some residual problems that people have that can be helped by therapy, even somebody with Meniere's Disease, but typically Meniere's Disease itself cannot be treated by physical therapy. A lot of people will develop sensitivity to certain motions. There's a very high correlation between our eye reflexes and our inner ear, so our inner ear helps us keep our balance, and it's the type of thing, the connection between our eyes and our inner ear, they are the things that help us walk down the store aisle and turn to read the labels on packages but not fall to the right when we turn to the right. So even though our eyes are going right, we don't tip to the right, so if your vertigo or dizziness is more brought on by shopping, driving down a busy road, driving in general, scrolling on the computer, or reading, then that would mean that person's vertigo or dizziness is more brought on by visual stimulation. That type of vertigo still responds well to physical therapy, you will be given particular eye exercises by your therapist in order to help reconnect the information from your eye to your inner ear. Once again, those symptoms respond well to physical therapy intervention. If somebody has been diagnosed with Meniere's or has been TOLD that they have Meniere's Disease though, I would want to make sure that that person was seen by a specialist. Sometimes a more general practitioner may not know what to call it, and maybe if they have symptoms that are coming and going, they may just say to a patient, “Well, maybe you have Meniere's Disease,” and then the person will leave the office believing they have Meniere's Disease. But there are particular criteria and symptoms that people need to meet in order to truly be diagnosed with Meniere's Disease. They should be tested by an audiologist, they should be seen by an ENT or a specialist, a physician who specializes in the vestibular system. If you have Meniere's Disease though you should continue to follow up with a physician, simply because it does not tend to respond to physical therapy intervention. Typically what a physician would have you do is monitor your fluid intake, you should not be dehydrated or overly-hydrated, you also have to limit your caffeine intake, alcohol, salt, chocolate, all of those things that can fluctuate your fluid levels. There are, in severe cases, there are surgical options for people whose lives are just leveled by their Meniere's symptoms, so surgery is an option, but that typically is a last resort for many people. You would want that to be your very last resort, the surgery is very close to the brain, the inner ear is an intricate, very tiny, but important, system, but it does lie very close to your brain, and so although some may see it as a small surgery, it is a pretty significant surgery. It will forever impair your balance. The type of surgeries that they do can affect your hearing, can affect your balance, leave you with ringing in your ears, so there are some lifelong repercussions to having those surgeries, but for some people if they're dizziness is limiting their life enough, they're willing to pursue it.
I am not a physician, I have my Masters in Physical Therapy, I do not diagnose people, that is the role of your doctor, so I would highly encourage everybody, if you are suffering with any of these symptoms, to follow up with your physician, but go in with some questions, maybe with some of this information you now know some more questions to ask, and that is our hope, is that you now have some avenues to seek some relief from your symptoms, but we are not here to diagnose your problem, I do not know your particular medical history, or your particular symptoms. So you should follow up with your physician, or pursue a physical therapist in your area that specializes in this. (End of Transcript)
A little more info:
In preparing this post I did some online research for “vertigo exercises” and asked Maureen what she thought about the links I found, here's what she said:
“It's always best to see someone and let them properly evaluate you. Everyone needs a specialized program designed for them based on the deficits and problems that they present with. Not everyone can benefit from the same generic exercises. The Dix-Hallpike test is the test used to test for BPPV (but some people have a negative test for multiple trials and then get a positive test — if they have the test done once at home or by an ENT, and it's negative — they'll think they don't have it, when they actually do.) The Epley maneuver is the technique used to treat and correct BPPV, but it needs to be done properly.”