As we get older, or as a result of trauma or illness such as a car accident or an upper respiratory infection, a person may develop difficulties with balance and symptoms of dizziness. Inactivity due to fear of falling and symptoms of dizziness can lead to falls, injury, depression, and a further decrease in overall activity level. Physical therapists with specialized training in the evaluation and treatment of such problems are able to address dizziness and balance impairments. The Vestibular Rehabilitation and Balance Program at St. Lawrence Rehabilitation’s Outpatient Health Center can help you regain the freedom of living without dizziness or fear of falling.

Vestibular or inner ear disorders are one of the most common causes of balance problems. Common symptoms include dizziness with change of position, such as getting out of or rolling over in bed and dizziness when bending over, reaching up, or turning quickly. Changes in vision may also occur. Vestibular and other balance impairments can also cause unsteadiness when walking, especially in poorly lit areas, on uneven surfaces, or when turning.

While many physicians may recommend medication for the problem, this does not always address the route of the problem or eliminate symptoms. At St. Lawrence a physical therapist with advanced training in vestibular rehabilitation conducts a thorough evaluation in order to gain information about the function of the inner ear and the musculoskeletal system. Based on the results of the evaluation and on the patient’s specific goals, the therapist designs an individualized exercise program to decrease dizziness, improve balance, and restore activity level. Depending on the nature and severity of the symptoms, one treatment session or up to a few weeks of treatment may be necessary to alleviate symptoms.

Treatment may include the Eply Maneuver or other types of canalith repositioning maneuver. This is used to treat BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), the most common cause of dizziness. The therapist gently brings your head through a series of small movements in order to reposition free-floating particles in the ear canal. With BPPV, these particles, called otoconia, have dislodged and are causing the illusion of spinning when you move in to certain positions. Repositioning maneuvers done by a trained therapist are very effective in eliminating these symptoms. Treatment may also include various exercises to improve your balance, habituation exercises to decrease motion sensitivity and dizziness, and gaze stabilization exercises to reduce visual symptoms.

The first step is to talk to your doctor about your symptoms of dizziness or balance problems and request a prescription for physical therapy. A few sessions may give you a better understanding of your problem and greatly improve your quality of life. You don’t have to live with dizziness!

Once you have obtained a prescription for physical therapy, you can speak with an outpatient coordinator at St. Lawrence’s Outpatient Health Center at 609-896-2515 to schedule an appointment. If you have questions about the vestibular and balance program you may ask the coordinator to speak with a therapist. You can also visit our website at www.slrc.org and click on the outpatient link.

St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center, 2381 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrencevile. 609-896-9500. www.slrc.org. See display ad page 18.

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