Vertigo and Dizziness. What's the difference?

Jun 02, 2023

Dizziness is a general term that refers to a range of sensations, including light-headedness, feeling unsteady, or having a false sense of motion. It can have various underlying causes, including vestibular disorders, cardiovascular issues, neurological conditions, medication side effects, and many others. People often describe feeling as though they are "rocking on a boat".  Our role as a physiotherapist is to help identify whether there is a musculoskeletal reason for your dizziness through a comprehensive assessment of your neck, visual coordination, balance, and vestibular system. Treatment for dizziness may involve head, neck and eye movements, manual therapy, postural exercises and balance training.  It is important to note that dizziness can be a complex issue, and collaboration with other healthcare professionals may be necessary.  

On the other hand, vertigo specifically refers to a type of dizziness characterized by a spinning or whirling sensation, as if the environment or the person is moving or rotating. One specific type of vertigo that physiotherapists treat is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).  BPPV occurs when small crystals in your inner ear become dislodged from their normal position and create a spinning sensation when your head position changes relative to gravity.  People suffering from BPPV most often describe the room spinning when they lie flat on their back or turn from side to side whilst in bed.  These episodes are normally short lived and can be associated with nausea and vomiting on occasion.

A physiotherapist can diagnose this condition using an assessment technique called the Dix Hallpike manoeuvre. If this is positive, the Epley’s manoeuvre, which involves a series of sequential head and body rolls can be used to reposition the crystals.  This is a remarkably effective technique at resolving BPPV when implemented appropriately. 


If you are suffering from dizziness or vertigo and would like some further information, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 4628 0026 to speak to one of our physiotherapists.

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