Jenn Thilmany


You climb into bed for a rejuvinating night of sleep. You waken to nature‘s call, but as soon as you start to sit up, the room spins. You stop to think, “I didn‘t drink, I don‘t have other stroke symptoms, it‘s not the flu must be vertigo.“

Vertigo happens when crystals inside our ears, slough off, landing on hairs called cilia in one or more of the three ear canals. Cilia helps our body know where it is in space. If the hairs are laying down, you should not be upright, so the system is tryingto figure out what is going on, making you dizzy. It can correct itself with time, but in the meantime you will be dizzy, unstable, and not able to attend to normal activities.

Some see their MD for this condition, who may prescribe Meclizine to decrease or stop the dizziness. It works for some, but not all. On top of this, dizziness is one of the side effects of Meclizine. Even if it does help, the medication only masks the symptoms, it does not change the reason behind the symptoms. A physical therapist on the other hand, can quickly assess whether or not it is vertigo and treat it on the spot. Most people have relief after only one or two treatments.

There are three canals where the crystals can go, and an assessment can tell us where they are. Based on this knowledge, we can move those crystals off the hairs making you feel better instantly. You should feel “normal“ within 24 hours, depending on severity. Sometimes more than one canal is involved. In these cases, a few more visits may be needed to fully clear all canals.

Vertigo doesn‘t only start at night however. It most likely comes on instantly. Some feel it when they lie down, others when they sit or stand up, some just need to turn their head in one direction. In severe cases, nausea and vomiting can occur, espcially if you are sensitive to turning motions. Sometimes trauma, such as a fall can bring it on. The older we get, the better chance of having vertigo, but anyone can have it. You may be more likely to have a repeat episode, but many only get it once.

Some people believe that when you have vertigo, you need to be careful after treatment. In the past, there were rules to follow, as it was believed that vertigo could come back, that it needed time to “stick“ after treatment. Unless you are tumbling in gymnastics though, most resume normal activities right away with no issues. Studies have shown that you do not need to sleep sitting up and that you do not need to be careful with head movements. Actually not moving the head and neck creates other issues. Those who return to normal activities without worry of vertigo returning often do the best.

Dr. Jenn Thilmany, DPT is a physical therapist at In Touch Physical Therapy. She can be reached at 507-451-7888.

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