Fixing Dizziness

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic dizziness and balance issues, and many can't find relief.

It's something that can be tough to diagnose - the feeling of spinning or rocking, vertigo or constant nausea. It can literally turn your life upside down. Even more difficult is finding someone who can help make it go away.

High-tech testing and some very low-tech exercises are bringing relief to patients who had given up hope.

That whirling, rocky, spinning sensation may be more common than you might think. In fact, it's the second most common reason people go to the doctor. Unfortunately for some, the dizziness or vertigo just doesn't go away.

"Bam, it hit me. I got dizzy and I wasn't sure where it came from," said patient Kerry Farris.

After dealing with the common cold, Ferris says her life turned upside down. The 38-year-old mother of three young boys went to several doctors, but no one could help. She was getting desperate when she discovered physical therapy.

"There is actually a fix for most causes of dizziness," said Michele Kehrer, Ph.D., owner, Physical Therapy and Balance Center, 3130 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Kerher is a physical therapist. A workout might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of treating dizziness or vertigo, but these exercises serve a specific purpose. But first, getting the right diagnoses is key.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 85 percent of equilibrium problems usually have something to do with the inner ear. That helps us maintain balance.

What's making it now easier to diagnose balance problems is high-tech equipment. Things such as as infrared goggles that can gauge movement in your eyes or computerized devices that measure how out of balance you really are.

For many people, crystals found in the inner ear may somehow get knocked loose. That could be the culprit. These odd looking maneuvers can put those crystals back in place, eliminating the dizziness.

For other people, problems with the inner ear that can come from a virus or physical damage may actually be helped with exercise. At first, these exercises may make a person feel worse before they get better. But the therapy is based on the concept that the same movements that make a patient dizzy can relieve the symptoms by repetition. Experts say it's essentially recalibrating the inner ear system.

"Any information we can send to your brain that makes you more grounded will override your inner ear system that's been damaged. So we challenge your eyes you inner ear and your sense of touch," said Kehrer.

Neurologist Timothy Hain, known as the "dizzy doctor" uses various treatments but says there is a place for physical therapy. He agrees it may take months but says the low-tech workouts can work.

"They need to have their brain readjust to the new situation that they are missing half of their inner ear function, the physical therapy is immensely helpful," said Hain.

Kerry says after several weeks of intense therapy and at-home exercises, she's almost back to normal.

"I can work on the computer, I can play with the kids, pick up toys run up and down the stairs a million times without even noticing it," she said.

As a physical therapist Michele Kehrer is very passionate about helping patients even as she is going through her own struggle with cancer. She believes most people can be helped and the first step is getting the right diagnosis.

Lifestyle Physical Therapy & Balance Center
Michele Kehrer, PT, DPT, ATC
3130 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, Il.

Chicago Dizziness & Hearing
Timothy Hain, M.D.
645 N. Michigan Ave. suite 410
Chicago, Il. 60611

Vestibular Disorders Association

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