Reducing Vertigo with the Help of Physical Therapy


    Dizziness, commonly known as vertigo, is characterized by an erroneous perception of motion, independent of actual movement. Effective management of vertigo symptoms can be achieved through a combination of physical therapy and targeted home exercises. The most popular type of physical therapy for vertigo is called vestibular rehabilitation therapy, a type of vertigo physiotherapy that incorporates exercises aimed at enhancing one’s ability to navigate dizziness and maintain balance, thereby alleviating issues related to imbalance. This therapeutic approach holds promise in assisting individuals in coping with the symptoms associated with conditions like vertigo.

    What is vertigo?

    Vertigo is a sensation of motion, often presenting as a spinning feeling unrelated to a person’s actions. It can lead to symptoms like balance issues, nausea, and motion sickness. There are two types: peripheral (80% cases), often caused by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), and central (20%), resulting from brain stem lesions or other brain issues. Conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) and migraines can cause central vertigo.

    How can physical therapy help with vertigo?

    Physical therapy is a tested and proven treatment that helps people diagnosed with vertigo. Therefore, choosing the appropriate physical therapy for dizziness caused depends on the specific type, emphasizing the importance of an accurate diagnosis before pursuing physical therapy or home exercises.

    Healthcare professionals often employ vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) to address vertigo linked to various factors such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), head injuries, central nervous system lesions, and un known causes. While VRT aims to assist individuals in anticipating and proactively managing vertigo triggers, it may not be universally effective for all vertigo causes. Those experiencing sporadic and unpredictable incidents might find limited benefit from VRT’s focus on preventing anticipated triggers.

    Can physical therapy make vertigo worse?

    The effects of vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) exercises on vertigo symptoms can vary, with outcomes ranging from improvement to exacerbation. Occasionally, a deterioration in symptoms may be attributed to the excessive use of exercises on a day when symptoms are relatively mild, leading to fatigue and an upsurge in symptoms. It’s important to note that despite apparent resolution of vertigo symptoms through exercises, there remains the possibility of a subsequent relapse at a later time.

    How to find a physical therapist specializing in vertigo physiotherapy

    Seeking recommendations from a healthcare professional is a valuable step in finding a suitable physical therapist in the local area. Recognizing that therapists vary in experience and expertise, not all may be adept at treating every cause of vertigo. For assistance in locating a qualified physical therapist, individuals can utilize the resources provided by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy’s website, which offers a directory of professionals in their vicinity. Additionally, the Vestibular Disorders Association provides a helpful resource to help individuals identify physical therapists in their area who specialize in addressing vertigo-related concerns.

    Exercises to Try at Home

    Before attempting home exercises for vertigo, it’s crucial to identify the underlying cause of the symptoms. Following exercise recommendations from a doctor or therapist is essential, as they can provide detailed explanations and guidance, including when to stop. This section will outline two canalith repositioning exercises aimed at relieving vertigo.

    Epley maneuver

    To perform the Epley maneuver effectively, follow these steps:

    • Start by sitting upright on the edge of a bed.
    • Turn your head approximately 45 degrees to the right.
    • Quickly lie back, maintaining this position for 30 seconds.
    • Turn your head to the left, again at a 45-degree angle, and hold for 30 seconds.
    • Continue the movement by turning your head and body an additional 90 degrees to the left, positioning yourself into the bed.
    • Stay in this position for another 30 seconds.
    • Gradually sit up.

    Repeat the entire sequence on the opposite side, initially facing to the right. This routine can be done up to three times daily until vertigo subsides for at least 24 hours.


    To engage in Brandt-Daroff exercises, follow these steps:

    • Begin by sitting upright on the edge of a bed.
    • Turn your head approximately 45 degrees to the left.
    • Lie down on your right side, ensuring your head maintains the same angle.
    • Maintain this position for 30 seconds or until dizziness subsides.
    • Gently return to the starting upright position.
    • Turn your head back to the center.
    • Repeat the same sequence on the opposite side.

    Other treatment options

    The approach to vertigo treatments is diverse and contingent on the specific underlying cause. Resolving the root cause is key to alleviating the symptoms of vertigo. Additional treatments for certain causes may involve the use of medications, including antihistamines, diuretics, benzodiazepines, corticosteroids, or anti-emetics. A combination of medications and vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) can also be effective. Lifestyle adjustments, such as steering clear of alcohol, caffeine, and excessive salt, may contribute to treatment success. In some cases, surgical intervention might be considered as a viable option.

    Outlook after treatments

    Through the implementation of physical therapy and other successful treatments, the majority of individuals can anticipate an improvement in their vertigo symptoms. Doctors play a crucial role in addressing any underlying conditions contributing to the onset of vertigo. Despite these interventions, it’s noteworthy that some individuals may encounter recurring vertigo episodes. For instance, approximately 50% of individuals with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) may experience a relapse within a five-year period. Furthermore, about one-third of individuals grappling with vertigo due to anxiety may continue to experience symptoms even after a year.

    Treat vertigo with the right physical therapy

    If you’re dealing with vertigo, take proactive steps towards relief. Explore a range of effective treatments, including physical therapy and targeted home exercises. Understand the diverse causes of vertigo and consult healthcare professionals for personalized guidance. Find qualified physical therapists through reputable resources like the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy and the Vestibular Disorders Association. Commit to recommended exercises, whether at home or with a therapist, and be mindful of potential triggers. Embrace a comprehensive approach, considering medications, lifestyle adjustments, and, in specific cases, surgical options.