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Why am I Dizzy? Can Physical Therapy help my dizziness and vertigo?

By: Sheila Borgen, PT

stick figure who appears dizzy with stars circling his head

Did you know that there are many types of dizziness and a multitude of causes of dizziness? It makes sense. After all, our bodies are pretty complex. Let me throw out a few reasons for you to consider. There is dizziness caused by dehydration, medications, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, headaches, visual deficits, inner ear issues, and cervical problems, among many other contributory factors. Let’s focus on the latter two, inner ear issues and cervical problems.

Dizziness attributed to the cervical spine is also known as Cervical Vertigo or Cervicogenic Dizziness. If you were to guess that the problem originates in the cervical spine, you would be correct. There are seven vertebrae in the cervical spine. The cervical spine provides the passageway for approximately 50% of the nerves that provide the framework for your body to function. As you can imagine, if there are problems with the cervical spine itself or its surrounding tissues, there could be consequences for the entire body.

Issues such as tight muscles from injury, stress, anxiety, or stroke can lead to cervical vertigo. Cervical arthritis can lead to this type of vertigo. Inflammation from injuries such as whiplash can also be a contributing factor. The most typical piece of the puzzle is that there exists a combination of neck pain and dizziness or lightheadedness. These symptoms can lead to falls, difficulty walking, and headaches. Some people even say they feel like they are floating!

A disorder of the inner ear causes a second type of dizziness that needs mentioning. This condition is known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV. BPPV is quite common in people in their 60s and older. This condition can be brutal! It can cause someone to feel like they are spinning rapidly on a merry-go-round when they change their head position. Someone with BPPV could experience dizziness just from rolling over in bed! The symptoms of BPPV include dizziness, blurred vision, unsteadiness, and loss of balance. People with BPPV also report nausea and vomiting.

An illusion of a wooded trail spinning in circles

These two conditions cannot be diagnosed with a blood test at a doctor’s office. Medication itself cannot provide effective treatment. The symptoms typically don’t just go away on their own. People with these symptoms need the help of a professional trained in specialty conditions such as these. Physical therapists are highly trained healthcare professionals who can listen to your symptoms, rule out other causes of dizziness, and provide treatment based on their findings. Suppose that you do suffer from Cervicogenic Dizziness or BPPV. In that case, a therapist will implement a treatment plan to relieve you. Physical Therapists will use their knowledge to design a program that may include massage, exercises, neck mobilizations, and stretching. Postural training and balance training may be beneficial. In addition, therapists are skilled in a particular maneuver for those suffering from BPPV that can help rid you of that dizziness once and for all.

Picture of Sheila, the author of the blog

Sheila is a freelance writer for physical health, mental health, and parenting. She has four exceptional children, one adopted from South Korea. She lives in Alabama with her husband and children. Sheila enjoys cheering her children on at archery tournaments, soccer games, and color guard performances. She has over 24 years of experience as a physical therapist with a special love for the senior population. Learn more about Sheila at

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