I always tell my patients that sometimes it doesn't take a complicated medical test to diagnose a problem. Case in point: I was getting a haircut last week at my favorite hair salon. During my haircut, there was an older female who was looking to get her hair washed. She sat down and was getting a towel placed around her neck when she motioned to the hair care specialist not to tilt her head backward too much. When asked why, the lady continued to say that if she where to put her head back too far, she would get dizzy.
As I overheard this, I knew immediately what was going on and I took the time to introduce myself. I told her that I was a Doctor of Physical Therapy who specialized in treating patients who are dizzy. She stated she has been dizzy for some time and only gets dizzy when she gets into bed and when she goes to the salon to wash her hair. The dizziness doesn’t last for too long, but she hates the feeling of seeing the room spin. She kept saying that when she spoke to a doctor about the symptoms, he told her that there were crystals rolling around in her ears and that there was nothing she could do but to take medication and live with the symptoms of the disease. We proceeded to have a nice conversation where I explained Vestibular disorders to her and its relation to the crystals in her inner ear.
I wanted to relate this story to my readers because Vestibular disorders are more common than you might think. Over 35% of adults over the age of 40 have experienced at least 1 Vestibular problem in their life, with the most common condition I treat, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), mostly occurring in females over the age of 60-65. Unfortunately, there is no real identifiable cause to the condition. It is a disease that causes the individual to feel that they are spinning when they change head positions or when their head is tilted backward. And as you can imagine, it’s difficult to enjoy a day at the salon when you know that if your head gets tilted backward, you’re going to get dizzy (and sometimes nauseous). In fact, a day at the salon is actually a real world trick that I always ask my patients when trying to diagnose a Vestibular disorder. If you find yourself getting inexplicably dizzy when your head is tiled back at the salon, chances are that you may possibly have a Vestibular issue.
Luckily, there is treatment for this condition. Many patients do not even know that a Physical Therapist that is specially trained in Vestibular disorders, such as myself, can treat such conditions. And, even though most doctors are fully aware of Vestibular disorders, many doctors still do not know that Physical Therapists can treat these patients.
With accurate diagnosis and swift treatment, a person can be treated for the symptoms to where they will fully resolve. The symptoms may still return 40% of the time, but in my clinical experience this seems to be less if the treatment is performed accurately. Consequently, there may be other underlying health factors which may predispose an individual to have a recurrence of the dizziness.
As I told the lady next to me, she didn’t need to live with feeling dizzy every time she went to the salon. In fact, I bet her next hair cut that if I couldn’t reduce or eliminate her vertigo, her next haircut was on me! She took me up on the offer and the rest, shall we say, is "hairstory".