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Anxiety and Stress Related Dizziness

Why does anxiety and stress cause me to be dizzy? 

Dizziness is a common symptom of anxiety stress and, and If one is experiencing anxiety, dizziness can result. On the other hand dizziness can be anxiety-producing. The vestibular system is responsible for sensing body position and movement in our surroundings. The vestibular system is made up of an inner ear on each side, specific areas of the brain, and the nerves that connect them. This system is responsible for the sense of dizziness when things go wrong. Scientists believe that the areas in the brain responsible for dizziness interact with the areas responsible for anxiety, and cause both symptoms. 

The dizziness that accompanies anxiety is often described as a sense of light-headedness or wooziness. There may be a feeling of motion or spinning inside rather than in the environment. Sometimes there is a sense of swaying even though you are standing still. Environments like grocery stores, crowded malls or wide open spaces may cause a sense of imbalance and disequilibrium. These symptoms are caused by legitimate physiologic changes within the brain. 

If there is an abnormality in the vestibular system, the symptom of dizziness can be the result. If one already has a tendency toward anxiety, dizziness from the vestibular system and anxiety can interact, making symptoms worse. Often the anxiety and the dizziness must be treated together in order for improvement to be made. 

How long should I wait before I seek treatment for dizziness?

Regardless of the cause of your vestibular disorder, the sooner you start therapy the better. Research has shown that the brain and inner ears work best for compensation, or recovery, in the first few months after a vestibular deficit occurs. This time period is optimal for vestibular rehabilitation to promote the best chance for recovery. 

How can physical therapy help anxiety and stress related dizziness and prevent falls?

Scientists are starting to better understand how dizziness and stress/anxiety are related, and some ideas about treatment have been developed. Physical therapists are working with patients that have anxiety and dizziness with good success. 

The therapy focuses on making the vestibular system work as well as it can, and working through symptoms of dizziness in anxiety-producing environments. Pa-tients develop skills in managing dizziness and learning to be able to control symptoms through pacing. Pacing is doing symptom-provoking activities in small doses with rest in between, so that your symptoms do not get out of control. By understanding better how the vestibular system works and what situations or movements may cause your symptoms, you will learn to manage your situation much better. 

What else can be done to help anxiety and stress related dizziness? 

The anxiety component of the problem may need medical treatment. Most interven-tions for anxiety involve psychological counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication. A physician may recommend a limited use of medications in order to control the anxiety in order to achieve the best benefits of physical therapy. 

What are my therapy sessions going to be like?

Therapy for vestibular disorders takes many forms. A qualified physical therapist (PT) will first perform a thorough evaluation that begins with a medical history and includes observing and measuring posture, balance and gait, and compensatory strategies. The assessment may also include eye-head coordination tests that measure how well a person’s eyes track a moving object with or without head movement. Using the results, the therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that includes specific head, body, and eye exercises to be performed both in the therapy setting and at home. The type of exercise utilized depends upon the unique problems that the individual demonstrates during the evaluation. Some exercises are geared toward helping with balance, some with helping the brain resolve differences in the inner ear signals, and some with improving the ability to visually focus. In addition, general exercise is often prescribed to improve overall physical health and well-being. 

How soon can I expect to see improvements?

Each patient is unique, so this time frame can vary greatly. Research shows that depending on the severity of your condition, it takes from 2 weeks to a few months of treatment to resolve a vestibular condition. We most often request a frequency of 2-3 times a week for 12 total visits. That is why our office staff will ask you to schedule all 12 of your sessions before starting therapy. If you need more than 12 sessions, your therapist will discuss this with you after you have completed 12 visits and you will decide together whether continuing with therapy would benefit you or not. If so, your therapist will reevaluate you and send a progress note to your physician requesting an extension.

What are the credentials of my physical therapist?

All licensed physical therapists have had to apply and be selected to attend Physical Therapy school. It is a very competitive process and only those will the highest grades and best potential are selected. Doctors of physical therapy have invested a minimum of 7 years into their undergraduate and graduate training at universities. Once they graduate, they have to sit for a State Board Exam and pass to receive their license to practice. In order to keep their license active, they must dedicate a certain number of hours to continuing education each year.

At Anchor Physical Therapy we also require that therapists attend multiple post-graduate continuing education courses every year to stay up to date with latest research and continuously enhance their treatment skills in order to achieve the best possible treatment outcomes for our patients.

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