Vestibular FAQ: Symptoms - Balance Chicago Physical Therapy

Vestibular FAQ: The Symptoms

Did you know your vestibular system controls your balance?

What other symptoms, besides dizziness, are associated with vestibular problems?

Many people experience a variety of symptoms they do not immediately attribute to vestibular problems. While dizziness is the primary symptom of vestibular dysfunction, people will also report a multitude of other symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms include anxiety, fatigue, tinnitus or (ringing in the ears), and motion sickness. Additionally, people can have difficulty with reading or watching tv, poor coordination and concentration, and spatial disorientation. These symptoms are due to the fact that the vestibular system is connected to a lot of other systems in the brain and when disrupted, it can cause problems in multiple areas. This is especially true for patients who have long standing dizziness. The longer people are dizzy, the more likely they are to develop additional symptoms beyond dizziness.

Are there any tricks to managing my symptoms while I am working on improving my vestibular system?

There are a couple tricks that you can use to manage your symptoms when you find yourself feeling extra dizzy or overwhelmed. The first step is to stop moving. In this case, head movement is the most important. Once you have stopped moving, you should pick a stationary spot to stare at. This visual fixation will allow you to focus on something that is not moving and therefore, better orient yourself. Another trick you can try is sitting down in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the ground, arms on arm rests, and head resting against a head rest or wall. Doing this will increase the amount of somatosensory input your body is getting and help you better orient yourself. Lastly, a helpful trick for nausea is to use ginger to calm your stomach. Ginger can be consumed in a lot of different forms from teas to hard candies.

Are there certain things that will make my symptoms worse?

Every person will have different triggers for their dizziness depending on the type of dizziness they have. However, there are some common activities and scenarios that can make people feel dizzier. The most common trigger is movement. This is usually movement of the head, whether that be turning your head, looking down, or changing positions. Position changes are the main trigger for the most common form of dizziness, BPPV or positional vertigo. Other types of movement can trigger dizziness as well such as visual movement or passive motion. 

Visual movement is what happens when you are in a busy environment, with a lot of moving parts. Grocery stores and airports are some of the most common environments where people notice problems with this. Visual movement can also include watching television, especially on a large screen. Visual movement tricks the visual system into thinking that you are also moving which can increase people’s dizziness.

Passive motion encompasses all forms of transportation and things such as elevators and escalators. This can trigger dizziness or motion sickness due to conflicting signals coming from your body, inner ear, and eyes. Lastly, dizziness can be triggered by stress, anxiety, and/or other strong emotions. This is because the vestibular system developed in combination with our flight or fight system because in a stressful situation, it is critical to know where your body and head are in space. This connection works both directions; dizziness can also be a trigger for anxiety.

I hope this blog has been helpful in answering some of your questions. If you have questions or are interested in talking with one of our therapists one-on-one, please feel free to reach out to Balance Chicago at 773-525-5200 or visit our click HERE to schedule your appointment.


Blog written by: Dr. Kylie Reese Schmidlkofer, PT, DPT

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