Vertigo is often described as having the room spin around you, making it challenging to maintain your balance or perform daily activities. It’s a specific kind of dizziness that’s typically caused by issues with the inner ear, although it can also stem from problems in certain parts of the brain. You might experience vertigo as the sensation that either you or the environment around you is moving or swirling, which can lead to nausea and loss of balance.

Underlying factors contributing to this condition can range from benign, like a minor ear infection or migraine, to more serious causes such as a stroke or tumor. Because vertigo can be a symptom of various medical issues, identifying the root cause is a critical step in determining the appropriate treatment, which may include medication, special maneuvers to shift ear crystals, or even surgery.

Understanding the symptoms and triggers of vertigo is important for managing the condition. Simple actions like turning your head, getting up too quickly, or changes in your head’s position can provoke vertigo episodes, particularly for conditions like Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Recognizing these triggers can help you to minimize occurrences and seek professional help when necessary.

What is Vertigo

In tackling vertigo, you’ll explore what vertigo really feels like, the factors causing it, and the varieties of vertigo you might encounter.

Vertigo is characterized by a sensation of spinning. It’s not a condition in itself, but a symptom often indicative of an underlying balance disorder affecting your inner ear or brain. When you’re experiencing vertigo, you might feel like you’re moving or that your surroundings are in motion when everything is actually still.

Causes of Dizziness and Vertigo

Some common causes of dizziness and vertigo include:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Hypoxia
  • Menopause
  • Side effects of medication
  • Neurological conditions
  • Head trauma or neck injury
  • Migraines
  • Vestibular dysfunction.

With these and many other potential causes for dizziness, it is important to have your symptoms assessed by a professional to identify the source of the problem and outline a treatment pathway.

Types of Vertigo

Two main kinds of vertigo exist: peripheral vertigo and central vertigo

  • Peripheral vertigo is linked to problems within the inner ear, with BPPV being a prominent example. 
  • Central vertigo is associated with issues in the central nervous system, often related to the brainstem or cerebellum. 

Identifying which type you’re experiencing is crucial for effective treatment.

Symptoms of Vertigo

In exploring vertigo, it’s crucial for you to recognize the symptoms and understand the diagnostic methods that help determine its cause.

Common Symptoms

Your experience of vertigo might feel like you or your surroundings are spinning, which can lead to dizziness and balance issues. Common accompanying symptoms that you may notice include:

  • Nausea or vomiting: A queasy feeling that leads to discomfort or the urge to vomit.
  • Headaches or migraines: Recurring or severe headaches that often accompany vertigo.
  • Tinnitus: Ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears.
  • Sweating: Sudden perspiration not linked to physical exertion.
  • Hearing loss: Difficulty in hearing, which may be temporary or permanent.

These symptoms can vary in duration and intensity, and they sometimes occur alongside other signs, such as a sense of fullness in the ear or difficulty focusing the eyes.

Diagnostic Methods

To diagnose vertigo, your healthcare provider will start with a medical history and a physical examination. They may use several methods to assess your condition:

  • Head movement tests: Simple maneuvers that can trigger vertigo symptoms, helping to identify the cause.
  • Hearing tests: Evaluations that help determine if your vertigo is connected to hearing loss.
  • Imaging tests: Such as an MRI or CT scan, which can provide detailed pictures of your brain or inner ear.

By utilizing these strategies, your physician can pinpoint the underlying cause of your vertigo, whether it’s a benign positional issue or something more complex like Meniere’s disease or vestibular neuritis. Understanding your symptoms and the diagnostic process can help you seek the most effective treatment.

Vertigo Treatment Options

When combating vertigo, you have several treatment avenues to explore depending on the root cause and severity of your symptoms. Your healthcare professional can help you determine the most effective strategy for relief.


Medications are often the first line of defense. If your vertigo is due to an infection or inflammation, antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed to reduce swelling and cure infection. In cases of severe nausea, antiemetics can help alleviate symptoms.


Physiotherapists with vestibular training specialize in understanding your body’s structures that sense position and motion.

The vestibular organ, located in your inner ear, is responsible for coordinating these senses with the brain and as such, disorders of the vestibular system are some of the most common, and treatable causes of dizziness.

A vestibular physiotherapist will help to identify and treat vestibular conditions, as well as coordinate with your doctor and refer you to the appropriate medical professional when the origins are beyond our scope of practice to treat.

Surgical Interventions

Surgery might be considered in extreme cases where other treatments have failed, such as when vertigo is caused by a more severe underlying condition. Procedures could involve repairing inner ear damage or, in rare situations, nerve section, which can eliminate vertigo while trying to preserve hearing.

Common Vestibular Disorders

We put together an article with a more complete list of vestibular conditions that physiotherapy can help with. However here are a few of the more common ones.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

BPPV is a condition where calcium carbonate crystals enter the inner ear canal and disrupt you inner ear’s ability to correctly process head movement. This creates a debilitating spinning sensation (vertigo) with certain positions or head movements.

Central Vestibular Conditions

Conditions involving the integration of the brain and inner ear are also very and can be addressed with vestibular rehabilitation therapy.

Head or Neck Injury

Dizziness symptoms are common after concussions and whiplash injuries. The impact can disrupt the brain’s ability to process spatial and positional information and integrate head, eye and body movement, creating a host of dizziness symptoms. The cervical spine, while rarely causing true vertigo (spinning) is commonly associated with dizziness but can be resolved with a combination of manual therapy and exercise, sometimes accompanied by vestibular therapy.

Vestibular Nystagmus

Here’s an example of what a nystamus attack looks like. Rapid horizontal eye movements.

Self-Treatment for Vertigo

If you’re experiencing vertigo, you’re likely seeking ways to manage the spin. This section will provide targeted strategies, from lifestyle tweaks to home remedies, that can help you regain a sense of equilibrium.

Dietary Choices: Reduce your intake of substances that can aggravate vertigo, like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. An article from Reader’s Digest Canada suggests controlling your sodium intake could also be beneficial, especially if you have Meniere’s disease.

Physical Activity: Incorporating regular, gentle exercises can help improve your balance and reduce the frequency of vertigo episodes. Focus on exercises like tai chi or simple yoga poses that promote stability.

Epley Maneuver: This specific head and body movement can be effective for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Follow the structured movement pattern to help shift the misplaced crystals in your inner ear.

Ginger: Ginger is commonly known for its anti-nausea properties. Chewing on a piece of raw ginger or sipping ginger tea might provide relief from vertigo-related nausea.

Sleep Posture: Position your head slightly elevated while sleeping. Use a pillow that supports your neck without tilting your head forward to avoid triggering vertigo symptoms.

Stress Management: Chronic stress is a known trigger for many health issues, including vertigo. Employ stress reduction techniques such as deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or mindful relaxation practices that can be found on various health platforms like Healthline.

When to Seek Medical Help

Vertigo can often be managed at home, but there are times when it’s critical to seek immediate medical attention. Here are specific symptoms that denote you should get help:

  • Sudden, severe headache: This could indicate a more serious problem, such as a stroke or aneurysm.
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing: These symptoms could suggest a heart-related issue.
  • Numbness or paralysis: If you experience this in your arms or legs, it could signal a neurological issue.

Additionally, be aware of these red flags:

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Double vision or rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion, trouble speaking, or altered mental state
  • Uncoordinated movements or stumbling
  • Protracted vomiting or seizures

If your vertigo is accompanied by sudden, severe headache or any of the above symptoms, don’t hesitate—get to an emergency room.

Also, visit a healthcare provider when:

  • Vertigo persists or substantially interferes with your daily activities.
  • You have recurring episodes of vertigo without any identifiable trigger.
  • There’s a noticeable change in symptoms you usually experience with vertigo.

Remember, it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health. If in doubt, seek help.

Impact on Daily Life

When you’re living with vertigo, your perception of movement is altered, making even the simplest activities feel daunting. Imagine finding the world around you suddenly spinning uncontrollably as you reach for a glass in your cupboard. Vertigo can turn routine tasks into challenging obstacles.

  • Personal Safety: Your risk of falls increases significantly because vertigo can hit unexpectedly, compromising your balance and coordination.
  • Driving and Operating Machinery: Since vertigo affects your spatial awareness, driving or using heavy machinery isn’t just difficult—it’s unsafe.
  • Work Performance: If your employment requires focus and precision, vertigo episodes can disrupt productivity and may lead to taking time off from work more often.
  • Social Interactions: Attending social events might become intimidating due to concerns about experiencing a vertigo attack in public.
  • Physical Activity: Exercising can become more complex and less frequent if the fear of an attack or actual vertigo symptoms are present.
  • Household Chores: Simple chores like cleaning or even looking up and down can provoke dizziness, making it essential to proceed with caution or seek assistance.

Living with vertigo requires you to adapt to these unpredictable spins. You might find yourself planning your day around the possibility of an attack and ensuring your environment is as safe as possible. It’s about finding new ways to navigate your daily tasks while managing your symptoms.


If you’re experiencing the unsettling sensations of vertigo, it’s vital to understand that it’s not a condition in itself but rather a symptom. Commonly described as a feeling that either you or your environment is spinning, vertigo can stem from various vestibular disorders.

Remember, you’re not alone in this. Consider reaching out to a vestibular physiotherapist for personalized care. If you’re near Langford or Victoria, the dedicated professionals at Parkway are equipped to guide you on your journey to manage and alleviate the symptoms of vertigo.

Maintain hope as many have found effective ways to cope with and treat vertigo. Whether it’s through medical management detailed by experts at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, or personalized therapy, there’s a path forward. Engage with a specialist to regain your balance and continue enjoying life’s moments without the disruption of vertigo.

For detailed information on causes and treatments, be sure to revisit the comprehensive explanation provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Are you ready to take the next step towards balance and stability? Reach out to a vestibular physiotherapist at Parkway to start your tailored treatment plan.

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