For immediate assessment and treatment for conditions mentioned in the blog please book in with Jeannelle Van Zyl, Chris Bacchus, Djordje Cudovski (Tuggeranong) and Lizzy Smiles (Woden)

Dizziness can be a range of sensations including feeling light-headed, woozy, unsteady, faint, or off-balance. Vertigo is a type of dizziness that feels as though you or your surroundings are spinning.

Vertigo is often caused by illnesses that affect the inner ear, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), migraine and inflammation of the inner ear balance apparatus (called vestibular neuritis). 

Dizziness may sometimes be caused by low blood pressure, some heart problems (such as cardiac arrhythmias), anxiety disorders such as panic attacks or by hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).

While some people understandably find it difficult to describe their dizziness, a description of a person’s dizziness and the circumstances in which it occurs may be very helpful in reaching a diagnosis.


Vertigo is often triggered by a change in the position of your head.

People with vertigo typically describe it as feeling like they are:

  • Spinning
  • Tilting
  • Swaying
  • Unbalanced
  • Pulled to one direction

Other symptoms that may accompany vertigo include:

Keep in mind that vertigo is a symptom of a medical condition, not a disease by itself. Your physio will try to figure out what’s behind it.


A wide range of conditions and diseases can cause dizziness, including: 


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Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is an inner-ear disorder that is the most common cause of vertigo.Brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness is usually triggered by floating crystals inside the structures of the ear with specific changes in your head’s position. This might occur when you tip your head up or down, when you lie down, or when you turn over or sit up in bed.

Inside your ear is a tiny organ called the vestibular labyrinth. It includes three loop-shaped structures (semicircular canals), oriented at different angles, that contain fluid and fine, hairlike sensors that tells the brain how far, how fast and in what direction the head is moving.

Other structures (otolith organs) in your ear monitor your head’s movements — up and down, right and left, back and forth — and your head’s position related to gravity. These otolith organs contain crystals that make you sensitive to gravity.

For many reasons, these crystals can become dislodged. A blow to the head, damage to the inner ear, or remaining on your back for an extended period of time, basically, anything that can cause a shifting of the calcium carbonate crystals can triggers of a vertigo attack. When they become dislodged, they can move into one of the semicircular canals — especially while you’re lying down. This causes the semicircular canal to become sensitive to head position changes it would normally not respond to, which is what makes you feel dizzy.

You can receive effective treatment for BPPV during a physiotherapy session.

Vestibular neuritis

This is an inner ear problem usually related to infection (usually viral), which causes inflammation in the inner ear around nerves that are important for helping the body sense balance. It causes severe dizziness that comes on suddenly and lasts for 2 to 3 weeks.

Vestibular Migraines

This disease is usually associated with reoccurring migraines and vestibular attacks lasting a few days. You may experience a combination of visual aura, or sensitivity to visual stimulation and motion at different times, and they can occur with or without an actual headache.

Meniere’s disease

This is an inner ear disorder thought to be caused by a build-up of fluid and changing pressure in the ear. It can cause episodes of vertigo along with ringing in the ears (tinnitus)  and hearing loss. It is unsure what causes it, though stress can be a trigger, along with eating salt or drinking caffeine and alcohol.

Vestibular Hypofunction

This is when the part of the nervous system, that is responsible to send the signals from the ear to the brain, is not functioning properly. The Vestibular system sits in your inner ear and works with your eyes and muscles to keep you balanced. This hypofunction results in ongoing dizziness or vertigo for a prolonged period of time, leading to difficulty maintaining balance and visual blurring during head movements. This can lead to an increased risk of falling and degradation in physical condition. Vestibular Hypofunction can also develop in patients having Vestibular Neuritis, Vestibular Migraine or Meniere’s disease.

You can receive effective treatment for Vestibular Hypofunction during a physiotherapy session.

Less often vertigo may be associated with:


Your physio may do a series of tests to determine the cause of your dizziness.

·       Signs and symptoms of dizziness that are prompted by eye or head movements

·       Involuntary movements of your eyes from side to side

·       Inability to control your eye movements

·       Positional tests that include fast and secure tilting of the head in space


Vestibular rehabilitation. 

This is a type of therapy aimed at helping strengthen the vestibular system. The function of the vestibular system is to send signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity.

Vestibular rehab may be recommended if you have recurrent bouts of vertigo. It helps train your other senses to compensate for vertigo.

Canalith repositioning manoeuvres.

This is a series of specific head and body movements for BPPV. The movements are done to move the calcium deposits out of the canal into an inner ear chamber so they can be absorbed by the body. You will likely have vertigo symptoms during the procedure as the Canaliths move. The movements are safe and usually works after one or two treatments.


Although it’s uncommon for dizziness to signal a serious illness, see your doctor immediately if you experience dizziness or vertigo along with any of the following:

·       A new, different, or severe headache

·       A fever

·       Double vision or loss of vision

·       Hearing loss

·       Trouble speaking

·       Leg or arm weakness

·       Loss of consciousness

·       Falling or difficulty walking

·       Numbness or tingling

The signs and symptoms listed above may signal a more serious problem. 



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