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10/29/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Have you ever been dizzy, had vertigo when getting out of bed, falls, imbalance, visual disturbances, or difficulty walking?

If you answered yes, you may have had a vestibular, or inner ear, disorder.

What is that you ask? 

Our vestibular system is our motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation system, and it is one of the three control systems that help us achieve and maintain our balance. 

To maintain our balance, we depend on information received from our eyes, muscles, joints, and our inner ear. Our balance can be disrupted by damage to any of these components through disease, injury, or the aging process. When this occurs, one will likely have decreased balance as well as other symptoms such as vertigo, dizziness, vision and hearing problems, fatigue, nausea, or difficulty concentrating. This is where vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) comes into the picture!

Diana has been a physical therapist for almost 15 years and has specialized in vestibular physical therapy for the past eight years, with a definite passion for this area of PT. Diana received her Certificate of Achievement in Vestibular Rehabilitation from Emory University in 2018, and in 2021 she completed The University of Pittsburgh – Vestibular Rehabilitation: Advanced Course and Update, all led by the leading professionals in the world in the area of Vestibular Rehabilitation. 

Diana shares that BPPV – or positional vertigo – is the most common cause of “dizziness” in adults, with the occurrence increasing significantly in those over the age of 65 years old. You may have BPPV if you get the sensation that the room is spinning when rolling over in bed, bending down to pick something up off the floor, laying back in the sink at the hairdresser, or sitting up on the edge of bed in the morning. Additional causes of dizziness include: migraine related dizziness, psychological disorders such as anxiety/depression, neuritis, labyrinthitis, Meniere’s disease, and – less commonly – vitamin B12 deficiency, vascular lesions, and more.  

“Just like our joints and muscles, our inner ear also degenerates as we age, placing seniors at a greater risk of getting BPPV. Additionally, women, those with low vitamin D levels, those with sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, and those who have had a fall have an increased occurrence of BPPV. I tested a patient who struggled with vertigo on and off for years for BPPV, she tested positive, and in two treatment sessions, she was completely cleared, symptom free, and couldn’t believe how good it felt to get out of bed and not feel dizzy anymore!” 

The risk of falling increases significantly in those with BPPV. Additionally, hearing loss and disturbances to the visual system also place our seniors at greater risk of falls. Diana notes, “Hearing loss is not our primary concern as physical therapists, but improving hearing can impact positive health outcomes. There is a 3x increased risk of falls for patients without treated hearing loss. Therefore, there is a definite benefit to addressing hearing and encouraging our patients to wear their hearing aids! 

“Additionally, looking at the visual system, older adults place more weight on this system for balance, so routine visits to the ophthalmologist are especially important to maintain eye and visual health to manage and monitor for the development or progression of common eye conditions that cause low vision, including glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.” 

Based on CDC records, 95% of hip fractures result from falls, and 25% of patients with hip fractures die within one year. Diana has seen and worked with many of these patients during her career. “Many of these falls result in loved ones having permanently restricted activity, functional decline, or find it necessary to stay in skilled nursing facilities to get the increased care that they need. There are many modifiable risk factors that we as PTs can address and improve to prevent a fall. PT directed gait, balance, and strengthening programs have been proven in research to add years to a person’s life expectancy.

“COVID has changed the ‘norm’ for many seniors, so having access to a home health PT specialized in vestibular therapy is key to keeping people safe and without dizziness in and around their homes. Being dizzy is not normal, but I have seen so many people who thought it ‘is just a part of getting old.’ Symptoms resulting from vestibular disorders can be life and activity altering, but they don’t have to be! Getting a referral to a specialized physical therapist and getting the appropriate treatment can greatly improve your quality of life. Helping people get better and realize this is what I consider a success and is truly the reason I do what I do!”   

For more information about Therapy Advantage’s Vestibular Physical Therapy program, call (614) 784-0400 or visit www.therapyadvantageinc.com.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff