Vestibular Rehab Offers Relief to Dizzy Spells

When the dizziness began, Ron Beck, 75, thought it was related to his surgery to remove a cancerous kidney. But when his head continued to feel “full,” his balance remained off, and he couldn’t drive or even ride comfortably in a car, he knew something was wrong.

“My head was always bothering me,” Ron said. “I just wanted to get rid of this horrible feeling.”

So did Pat, his wife of 55 years. She took over the driving and became his constant companion whenever he stood up to walk anywhere. For this couple already facing Ron’s many health challenges, the dizziness caused great anxiety.

His primary doctor referred him to balance therapy through vestibular rehab with Sonali Bhole, PT, senior physical therapist at Taylorville Memorial Hospital (TMH).

“Initially when Ron came in, I noticed he was holding on to Pat’s hand as he walked,” Sonali said. “He was very uncomfortable letting go of her hand, and he needed a wide base of support to keep his balance. He was looking down – unable to look around and scan his environment. He was someone very scared of walking, which is not uncommon with people who experience dizziness.”

Sonali explained that watching her patients initially gives her clues about what she’s looking for. Once she had Ron go through some basic physical tests, she had him put on the vestibular infrared goggles, which magnify the eyes and record eye movement.

“The eyes are the best window to the inner ear,” Sonali said. “There are three canals in each ear, and crystals are always present at the base of each canal. They help send information to the brain about the way your head is tilted. When the crystals fall within the canal, the fluid in the canal moves. The brain then feels like the head is tilting, which can lead to feelings of swaying, spinning, and dizziness.”

Within the first several therapy sessions, Ron experienced relief. Sonali determined the inner ear canal that was affected by the crystals and then had him go through the correct procedure to drain the crystals out. Ron also continues to do his treatment exercises at home: standing and focusing on what’s ahead. He moves his head, with eyes closed, and maintains balance.

Today, he’s back behind the wheel and has regained his independence. Sonali noticed right away when he came in smiling and joking, independent of Pat’s support.

“I recommend therapy because it helped me, and it worked so quickly,” Ron said. “It was the most amazing thing. At the time, it was hard for us to believe it could work so quickly.”

“You don’t have to live with feeling dizzy,” Sonali added. “Or thinking it’s because of your age. Age does not matter. You can still help relieve dizziness if the dizziness is not related to cardiac or other medical issues.”

For information on TMH’s vestibular rehab program, call 217- 824-1843 or visit the website here.