More than 90 million Americans, age 17 and older, have experienced a dizziness or balance problem, according to the National Institutes for Health. About nine million people have been severely disabled by frequent feelings of spinning or a whirling sensation, imbalance, difficulty focusing their eyes, and other similar symptoms, including severe nausea or vomiting.
Approximately 50 percent of the population will suffer from equilibrium disorders at some point in their lives. These can be caused by viral or bacterial infections in the ear, head trauma, allergies, migraine, blood circulation disorders, osteoarthritis, cardiac issues, stress and more. Additionally, many people experience problems with their sense of balance as they get older.
While many patients seek treatment from physicians for these disorders, expert treatment may come from a physical therapist who specializes in treating these conditions through vestibular rehabilitation programs. Only two percent of physical therapists in the United States have been certified in vestibular rehabilitation. A vestibular disorder is an inner ear disorder that can cause symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, headaches, nausea and a loss of balance. There are different types of vestibular disorders, including BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo), peripheral or central vestibulopathy, vestibular migraine, Meniere’s Disease and labrynthitis. Each is caused by different reasons and has individual treatment plans.
Dr. Michele Kehrer PT, DPT, ATC, of Chicago is one of the few specialists working with neurological dizziness and balance disorders today. An athlete herself, she was first drawn to balance and dizziness issues while working in sports rehabilitation. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she worked with neurology specialists to develop mew patient protocols – successes that were later acknowledged by the United States government when she was asked to assist in research conducted by NASA and the Department of Defense.
“Many of my patients complain of feeling nauseous, like they are falling, or as if they’re on a spinning bed.