Published on September 09, 2019

Feel Dizzy?


Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms people seek medical attention for, but the causes of dizziness can be complex and elusive. What is dizziness? Is dizziness the same thing as vertigo? How do you cure it? A common definition of dizziness is an impairment of spatial orientation. James Barsky, PT, DPT, Advanced Vestibular Therapist, compares the term dizzy to the term pain. Pain is a general term for many different types of pain – sharp pain, dull pain, aching pain, burning, stinging, shooting, etc. Just like pain, dizziness is a general term used to describe a range of sensations, such as feeling lightheaded, faint, foggy, vertigo, off-balance, woozy, wobbly, whirly, etc. These feelings may be triggered or worsened by walking, standing up or moving your head. Dizziness may be accompanied by nausea and can be sudden or severe enough that you need to sit or lie down (episodes can last seconds or days and may recur). Frequent or constant dizziness can significantly affect your quality of life and increase your risk of falling and injuring yourself. How dizziness is treated depends on the cause which can be difficult to pinpoint without the examination of a healthcare provider trained in treating dizziness.


Just as with dizziness, balance is also complex. There are even more conditions that can affect balance than there are that cause dizziness. The primary reason for this is that there are many systems of the body that contribute to our balance. Your inner ear (vestibular system), vision, muscle strength, coordination, awareness of the environment, nerves in muscles and joints are all components that contribute to balance, meaning that if problems arise in any of those areas, it can cause problems with balance.

For most people the feeling of spinning uncontrollably, nausea, and being unbalanced are extremely unpleasant feelings. Anytime there is a problem with the systems of your brain and inner ear (the vestibular system) that control your equilibrium, it may cause you to experience those uncomfortable symptoms of imbalance. The good news? The brain and body are extremely adaptable. When your equilibrium is interrupted, your body finds ways to adapt to help you feel more stable. This can include changing the way the brain uses balance signals from the body such as relying more on vision for balance. Even if the primary cause of a balance disorder cannot be cured, the other components that contribute to balance can be improved to make up for the areas not functioning properly so that you can improve balance overall.

How dizziness or imbalance is treated and managed will depend on the causes. Sometimes dizziness is caused by an underlying health condition, such as poor circulation, infection or injury. Generally, see your doctor if you experience any recurrent, sudden, severe, or prolonged and unexplained dizziness.

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