Dizziness is a common condition that becomes more prevalent with aging. It can have many causes including age, but inner ear disorders, neck dysfunction, medication side effects, and cardiovascular issues are a few factors that can also cause dizziness symptoms.

Do you know the difference between vertigo and dizziness?

Often the two terms get used interchangeably. Describing your symptoms accurately can help us hone in on the cause of your problem. 

Dizziness is the loss of spatial orientation (your brain’s ability to determine where your body is in space). It’s an umbrella term that describes several symptoms including light headedness, imbalance, faintness and feeling disoriented. Vertigo is also included in this category, but has a specific significance related to diagnosis, so we like to know if you are experiencing vertigo, or other types of dizziness. 

Vertigo is the sensation of your environment moving around you or you moving within your environment. This can include “spinning”, which is the most common description, but people with vertigo may also experience the sensation of falling, or shifting in their environment.  

As a physiotherapist who treats vertigo and dizziness, I see people of all ages with varying symptoms come into the clinic. Most commonly though, I see people over the age of 50 with benign positional paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV), often referred to as “the inner ear crystals”. Interestingly, BPPV goes unrecognized in 9% of older adults complaining of dizziness.

         In the clinic physiotherapists play a crucial role in trying to identify the cause of dizziness. In particular, we try to rule out the vestibular system (our balance organs) and the neck as the cause of symptoms. Our goal is to optimize function and promote a healthy, active lifestyle. 

         Vestibular rehab is the primary treatment for dizziness and vertigo and comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be really simple. For example a maneuver that takes only a few minutes can help clear the crystals in your inner ear. Treatment can also be very complex. Complex cases integrate specifically tailored exercises including exercises for general balance, gaze stability, neck movement and nervous system adaptation.  This can improve vestibular function, overall balance, and reduce the burden of your symptoms. Much of vestibular rehab relies on “neuroplasticity”. The goal is to get your brain to rewire and adapt to the input we are providing. 

Age related imbalance is also commonly seen in the clinic. As we get older, we lose muscle strength, quickness of movement, and flexibility. This can lead to imbalance and an increased risk of falls. Like any system, the balance system can be trained, and with the appropriate exercise we can make significant improvements in age-related imbalance and dizziness.

Overall, dizziness is NOT a normal consequence of aging. I am always an optimist. Physiotherapy can provide both hope and practical recommendations for exercise to address dizziness, imbalance and vertigo symptoms. By completing a thorough assessment, determining the causes and factors at play, and developing a personalized plan we can regain your balance, reduce your symptoms and get you back to a happy and active life, at any age!

This Blog was written by Physiotherapist Tim Schmidt. Tim works at our Valleyview clinic location. To book an assessement with Tim or one of our other experienced Vestibular Therapists, phone 250-314-0788 or book online HERE.