Physio for vertigo (dizziness)

Janice Brown, 52, has suffered from recurring labyrinthitis and vertigo, off and on, for around 30 years. After just two sessions with a physiotherapist at Spire Hartswood Hospital, however, her condition is now under control. Here she tells her story…

"It started in my early 30s. I’d get this constant noise in my ears and I’d feel dizzy and nauseous. It was awful. Even just to walk into my front room, to walk in a straight line, was impossible. I’d feel myself veering off, because it’s all to do with balance. My doctor would give me tablets, I’d take them for a while and, once it was under control, I’d stop. Every now and then it would reoccur and I’d have the tablets again. 

Last April, some of my family who live in New Zealand came home for a wedding, but unfortunately they all came down with a virus when they got here. I was the last one to get it, and I caught it really badly. I was being treated for cancer, so I had a weakened immune system because of the chemotherapy. I had this virus for about six weeks. It went to my ears and it sounded like the ocean was in my ears constantly. It was awful. My GP told me he couldn’t prescribe the tablets I used to have, as there were concerns about them being linked to Alzheimer’s.

Then, to top it all, I inadvertently ate some goats cheese – I’m allergic to it – so I got a stomach upset and I went back to the doctor. The dizziness was back. Even if I just turned over in bed, the world would go round. This time, I was finally given a diagnosis for it - I had labyrinthitis plus benign positional vertigo. The GP said it would go off on its own, which it did, after about a week. But it kept coming back.

Fortunately, I don’t drive, or that would have been difficult. And if I went out shopping, I’d go with my husband and hold onto his arm so that way, I walked straight. It’s quite debilitating, really. It makes you feel very nauseous and unsteady. I didn’t have it every day but when you are affected by it, it’s awful.

Finally, in December last year, I had a follow-up appointment with the oncologist followed by a session with the physio. I’d been seeing a physio at the Hartswood for a while, as I had to be able to lift my arms up for radiotherapy and I had a very stiff shoulder after surgery. After the session, as I sat up to get off the bed, the room just went round completely. It was awful. It was worse than before. The physio said to me, 'why don’t you try Fiona (she’s a vestibular specialist physiotherapist) and get her to do your ears'? So I did, virtually straightaway.

It’s funny because my husband had mentioned this sort of treatment to me previously. He was listening to a doctor on the radio while he was driving home one night, and the doctor was talking about this treatment for dizziness. He came home and told me about it but we didn’t follow it up.

Fiona held onto my head and then turned me to one side, then right over. Then she turns you onto your other side, onto your back - she’s very gentle. It’s brilliant how she manoeuvres you. She manipulates you carefully; there’s nothing rough about it. It was painless.

I must admit I felt odd after the first session. I sat in a chair all afternoon and I didn’t move. But after that, it was a lot better. And then I had a second session and it’s been under control since then. It’s been absolutely brilliant. It’s amazing that it’s all been done without drugs.

There are little things I can do now. Bending down to pick something up – I used to get down on my knees rather than just bend over. Turning over quickly or sitting up quickly are possible again now.

A couple of days and it made all the difference. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

Physiotherapist, Fiona Perry, comments...

“BPPV (Benign Proximal Positional Vertigo) is a common disorder which can be very disabling for patients. It happens when naturally occurring ‘crystals’ in the inner ear get caught in some of the smaller canals and cause intermittent dizziness. Patients with BPPV often complain of not being able to turn over in bed, bend forward, or go to places like the hairdresser’s or the dentist for fear of becoming dizzy. If not treated, the condition can persist for many years and can affect a person’s quality of life.

Treatment for BPPV is very effective and usually only takes one or two treatments of placing the head into certain positions, as Janice describes. The aim is to encourage these ‘crystals’ to exit the inner ear canals and return the body’s ability to balance.

At Spire Hartswood, we have an excellent team of specialists that can detect and treat this and other conditions where dizziness is a problem. Patients concerned about dizzy symptoms should try to arrange to see either a vestibular physiotherapist or a specialist in ENT or neurology.”