Let’s talk about being dizzy!
Everyone has probably been dizzy at some point, whether you spun around in a circle too many times, or stood up too quickly, you might know what it feels like to be dizzy! Dizziness has many causes, one of the causes is vestibular, but the feeling of being dizzy is not always an inner ear issue. In reality, it is a a big umbrella term for many different symptoms that present themselves and make you feel differently than you are used to. Because there are so many causes of dizziness, it’s important that your provider understands how you are feeling, when you’re having the sensation, and how long it’s lasting. Dizziness symptoms can be present when someone has low blood pressure, a racing heart, or if you are dehydrated. Those are just a few of the many examples that are not vestibular that could be causing your symptoms. It is for this reason that doctors often have so much trouble with finding the answer to why you specifically are dizzy.
Whether you experience vertigo, spinning, dizziness, lightheadedness, or feel like your head is a hot air balloon, your experience is real and valid. Simultaneously, it is very important to put a name on your specific feelings. Most of your diagnosis will likely come from your subjective feelings – whether you’re swaying, lightheaded, or spinning, your doctor will use this description to help provide you with a diagnosis.
I sometimes find that my patients and clients caveat their symptoms with “I don’t have a good word for this, it’s almost like I am _____” and insert a descriptor like ‘cotton candy headed’. This description is not wrong. All people have different descriptions of dizziness and vertigo because no two people are exactly alike. Your specific description and experience should be incredibly important to you and your healthcare provider in order to come to a diagnosis. The ability to illustrate your specific symptoms will help a healthcare provider determine the best form of treatment for you specifically.
Although vertigo and dizziness can be incredibly frustrating, and hard to describe, there is comfort in the fact that vestibular dizziness can be treated through physical therapy and other healthcare avenues. The description, even though it may feel impossible to describe, is very important to your PT. If you feel like you absolutely can’t put a word on it, say that. Tell your provider that it feels impossible, or lightheaded, or like you’re floating. This will help us determine if you have BPPV, a form of Endolymphatic Hydrops, Vestibular Neuritis, or another vestibular dysfunction. No matter the kind of dysfunction, the ability for your physical therapist to reproduce your symptoms of the most important part of treatment. It is likely that during your evaluation you will be dizzy for a portion of the time. This is normal, but if you are know you’re prone to excessive dizziness and discomfort, bring someone to your appointment to help you get home.
Time is another very important factor in dizziness. How long, how often, and when your symptoms occur is another vital piece to what is causing your dizziness. If your dizziness only happens when you stand up too quickly, your doctor should think one thing, like low blood pressure, but if it happens because you move your head quickly, it may be vestibular and movement related. How long the symptoms last is also important as it will help you doctor conclude if you’re sensing movement incorrectly, or if you have a mechanical problem, like BPPV.
There is no right, or wrong, answer when it comes to your dizziness and your symptoms. Ruling out non-vestibular issues first, like cardiac dysfunction, is part of ruling-in a vestibular diagnosis, but is not the only part of your equation. Some people have more than one kind of dizziness, and that is not abnormal. Try not to become overwhelmed, always talk to your doctor & healthcare team, and bee honest about what is happening with you!
No matter what, we are here to help!