physio, Physiotherapy

Is it Dizziness or is it Vertigo? How Physiotherapy Can Help.


It’s no secret that dizziness is one of the most commonly reported medical symptoms, especially among our ageing population. In fact, it is reported that dizziness effects up to 35% of Americans over the age of 40, and up to 80% over the age of 65.

These numbers may not surprise you, but did you know that something called Vertigo, as a result of conditions such as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) can account for up to half of these reported cases?

So what? What is vertigo? What’s the difference?

The term Vertigo and Dizziness are often used interchangeably, when in fact they are not the same thing.

Dizziness: an umbrella term used to describe a number of sensations such as imbalance, light headedness, and disequilibrium.

Vertigo: a specific type of dizziness, defined as the feeling of either the environment spinning around you, or you spinning around your environment. (clinical practice guideline article on BPPV). This is most often caused by an imbalance in the peripheral vestibular system, also know as the inner ear.

The inner ear is made up of a set of vestibular canals and organs that are uniquely designed to detect movement and position of the head (Ageing and the peripheral vestibular system, 2018). As you can imagine, if this system is disrupted or compromised it will have difficulty accurately identifying where our head is in space. This mismatch can lead to feelings of dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, and significant discomfort.

For example, in the case of a condition like BPPV, the symptoms of vertigo are most often brought on with positional changes. This includes movements such as:

  • Sitting up
  • Lying down flat
  • Bending forward
  • Looking up
  • Rolling onto your side in bed

If you or someone you know suffers from any of the symptoms listed above, here are 3 ways a physiotherapist may be able to help:

  • A detailed assessment from a physiotherapist certified in Vestibular Rehabilitation will use specific assessment tools to help determine the specific cause of your symptoms.
  • Treatment: With this information, your physiotherapist can then use manual therapy and treatment techniques specific to your symptoms. Treatment from a physiotherapist can offer relief of such symptoms in as little as one session.
  • An individualized rehab program designed to give you the tools to decrease and manage your symptoms, as well as improve your balance and stability.

Interested in finding out more?

Feel free to email the clinic at info@alaia.ca or book a vestibular physiotherapy assessment session, we would be happy to help.

Troy Clare

Vestibular Rehabilitation Certified Physiotherapist.