‘Dizzy my head is spinning’…
Vertigo/Dizziness – Reflexology as a treatment option?
Reflexology assists in treating the symptoms of vertigo along with dizziness and fainting by restoring the balance of the energy flow in the body. Reflexology treatment results into a restoration of homoeostasis i.e., to say an internal equilibrium result.
Organs and glands start working optimally and harmoniously after the reflexology treatment. In addition, reflexology restores hormonal balance which as detailed in this info sheet, is often an underlying factor in producing vertigo symptoms, especially through impaired Thyroid function.
At Healthy Harmony, we have direct experience of reducing the impact of Vertigo (& Tinnitus) and although we are unable to say we provide a cure, we now have clients who suffered with the daily impact of Vertigo who no longer experience these symptoms following Reflexology at Healthy Harmony Tenerife.
During a treatment, we pay particular attention to the function of the kidneys as often it is thought that being the same shape of that of the ears has a direct correlation to the impact on conditions associated with the ears. As we do with all our practices, we provide comprehensive aftercare information and advice, and where possible self-help recommendations.
With Vertigo, this includes utilising acupressure points more information will be provided at the time of an appointment.
This blog provides information on:
- What is Dizziness
- Endocrine disorders that may cause dizziness
- Importance of keeping hydrated
- Low & High blood pressure
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Various Techniques
- Some ear conditions with treatment options
- Food allergies
- Acupressure points
- Dizziness is a symptom that is often applies to a variety of sensations including light-headedness and vertigo.
- Vertigo is the sensation of spinning, while light-headedness is typically described as near fainting, and weakness.
- Some of the conditions that may cause light-headedness in a patient include low blood pressure, high blood pressure, dehydration, medications, postural or orthostatic hypotension, diabetes, endocrine disorders, hyperventilation, heart conditions, and vasovagal syncope.
- Vertigo is most often caused by a problem in the balance centres of the inner ear called the vestibular system and causes the sensation of the room spinning. It may be associated with vomiting. Symptoms often are made worse with position changes. Those with significant symptoms and vomiting may need intravenous medication and hospitalisation.
- Vertigo is also the presenting symptom in patients with Meniere’s Disease and acoustic neuroma, conditions that often require referral to an ENT specialist. Vertigo may also be a symptom of stroke.
- Most often, dizziness or light-headedness is a temporary situation that resolves spontaneously without a specific diagnosis being made.
Introduction to dizziness (feeling dizzy)
Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms that will prompt a person to seek medical care. The term dizziness is sometimes difficult to understand since it means different things to different people. It is either the sensation of feeling lightheaded as if the individual is weak and will pass out, or it describes vertigo or the sensation of spinning,
Vertigo, dizziness, and fainting are common problems that can occur in people of any age, but they are more common among older adults. Although, light-headedness and fainting are mainly caused due to general weakness, vertigo is a symptom in itself that is marked by a specific kind of dizziness in which the individual feels that the surrounding is moving, although there is no actual movement. The person can also feel as if he/she is off balance, with sensations of tilting, spinning, whirling or falling. Severe vertigo can trigger nausea, vomiting and loss of balance. Some common causes of vertigo and dizziness are Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis, Meniere’s disease, and BPPV or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
Endocrine diseases which cause dizziness
Thyroid disease: Abnormalities of the thyroid may cause dizziness as a symptom.
- Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) may cause palpitations, shortness of breath, and light-headedness.
- Hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) may cause low blood pressure and a decreased heart rate leading to light-headedness, weakness, lethargy, and chills.
- Addison’s disease: Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol to meet the needs of the body. Cortisol is a naturally occurring steroid produced by the body and is part of the stress response (often termed the “fight or flight” response). If cortisol levels are low, a patient may experience weakness, fatigue, light-headedness, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure.
Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions experience dizziness and light-headedness. Some of the potential causes of dizziness and/or light-headedness include food allergies, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, dehydration, hypoglycaemia, orthostatic hypotension, inner ear problems, infections, certain medications, vestibular migraines, and Meniere’s disease.
Drink water and then drink some more!
In individuals who are dehydrated or anaemic, blood pressure readings may be normal when they are lying flat; however, the lack of fluid is unmasked when they stand up quickly. The lack of blood to the brain may cause dizziness and light-headedness. This feeling may pass in a few seconds as the body adapts. However, if dehydration or medications (for example, beta blockers) prevent the body from reacting by constricting blood vessels and increasing the heart rate, the dizziness may persist to the point at which the patient passes out (faints, or experiences syncope).
Some diseases are associated with an inability to compensate for changes in body position (autonomic dysfunction). Normally when a person stands, blood vessels contract to increase blood pressure slightly, and the heart rate increases to pump blood uphill to the brain against gravity. In autonomic dysfunction, a person may become dizzy when they move from a lying position to sitting or standing up.
Low blood pressure as a cause of dizziness
Dizziness, light-headedness, and the feeling of passing out is a common complaint in people who have low blood pressure. When the blood pressure is too low, not enough oxygen-rich blood is being delivered to the brain, and its function can be affected. If the brain’s blood supply is decreased too much, the person may pass out (syncope). Symptoms may worsen when changing position from lying down or sitting, to standing up.
In addition to feeling dizzy, associated symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Low blood pressure may be the result of an underlying illness or disease, or it may be a normal physiologic condition. Some common reasons for low blood pressure include the following:
- Anaemia (decreased red blood cell count) due to decreased production or increased destruction of red blood cells
- Bleeding may cause anaemia due to red blood cell loss
- Dehydration (loss of water in the body) often occurs with infections that cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Fever also can cause a significant amount of water loss due to increased metabolic rate and excessive sweating as the body tries to cool itself.
- Heat-related illnesses associated with dehydration such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
- Side effects of certain medications used to control blood pressure and heart rate. Examples include:
- Beta blockers, which block adrenalin receptors in the heart and may limit the ability of the heart rate to increase in response to changes of position, decreased red blood cell count, or dehydration.
- Nitro-glycerine and isosorbide mononitrate, a long acting nitro-glycerine, are medications that are prescribed to dilate blood vessels in the heart to treat angina. However, these medications also cause other blood vessels in the body to dilate, decreasing blood pressure.
- Diuretics that can cause dehydration
- ACE inhibitors that slow the heart rate, and
- Medications for erectile dysfunction that can dilate blood vessels.
- Alcohol use
High blood pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” since it often has no symptoms, even if blood pressure readings are markedly elevated. On occasion, a person may complain of headache, nausea, or dizziness, although the complaints don’t necessarily correlate with the degree of blood pressure elevation.
However, if the blood pressure is elevated and the person has symptoms, there is a need to bring the blood pressure under control relatively quickly. The more severe the symptoms, the quicker blood pressure control needs to be achieved. For example, if a person is having chest pain or stroke symptoms associated with high blood pressure, the blood pressure needs to be controlled immediately (hypertensive emergency).
When a person stands up from sitting or lying down, the body must work to adjust to that change in position. It is especially important for the body to push blood upward and supply the brain with oxygen. If the body fails to do this adequately, blood pressure falls, and a person may feel lightheaded or even pass out. Orthostatic hypotension is the term used to describe the fall in blood pressure when a person stands (orthostatic= upright posture of the body; hypo= less + tension=pressure).
Adequate blood supply to the body’s organs depends upon three factors:
- a heart strong enough to pump,
- arteries and veins that are able to constrict or squeeze, and
- enough blood and fluid within the vessels.
When the body changes position, a variety of actions occur involving all parts of the cardiovascular system as well as the autonomic nervous system that helps regulate their function.
The autonomic nervous system can be considered to “run in the background” of the body, regulating body processes that we take for granted. There is a balance between the sympathetic system (adrenergic nerves), that speed things up, and the parasympathetic system (cholinergic nerves) that slow things down. These names are based on the type of chemical that is used to transmit signals at the nerve endings.
- Adrenaline (from the sympathetic nervous system) allows the body to respond to stress. Imagine seeing a bear in the woods; your heart beats faster, your palms get sweaty, your eyes dilate, and your hair stands on end.
- Acetylcholine is the chemical that is the anti-adrenaline and is involved in the parasympathetic nervous system.
These two systems are in balance, and yet need to respond to routine changes in the body that happens throughout the day.
- When the body moves to a standing position, pressure monitors (baroreceptor cells) located in the carotid arteries and the aorta sense a subtle drop in blood pressure because of gravity, which causes blood to flow towards the legs.
- Almost immediately, the sympathetic system is stimulated, causing the heart rate to increase, the heart muscle to contract or squeeze more forcefully, and blood vessels to constrict or narrow.
- All of these actions serve to increase the blood pressure so that an adequate amount of blood can still be pumped to the brain and other organs.
- Without these changes, gravity would cause the blood to remain in the lowest part of the body and away from the brain, causing symptoms of light-headedness or even passing out.
Orthostatic hypotension is not a disease or a complaint from an individual; it is an abnormal change in blood pressure and heart rate associated with an illness.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
Like vestibular neuronitis, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) often clears up without treatment after several weeks or months. It’s thought that the small fragments of debris in the ear canal that cause vertigo either dissolve or become lodged in a place where they no longer cause symptoms. BPPV can sometimes return.
Until the symptoms disappear, or the condition is treated, you should:
- get out of bed slowly
- avoid activities that involve looking upwards, such as painting and decorating or looking for something on a high shelf
BPPV can be treated using a procedure called the Epley manoeuvre.
The Epley manoeuvre
The Epley manoeuvre involves performing four separate head movements to move the fragments that cause vertigo to a place where they no longer cause symptoms. Each head position is held for at least 30 seconds. You may experience some vertigo during the movements.
Your symptoms should improve shortly after the Epley manoeuvre is performed, although it may take up to two weeks for a complete recovery. Return to your GP if your symptoms haven’t improved after four weeks. The Epley manoeuvre isn’t usually a long-term cure and may need to be repeated.
If the Epley manoeuvre doesn’t work, or if it’s not suitable – for example, because you have neck or back problems – you can also try Brandt-Daroff exercises. These are a series of movements you can do unsupervised at home.
Your GP will need to teach you how to do the exercises. You repeat them three or four times a day for two days in a row. Your symptoms may improve for up to two weeks.
Referral to a specialist
Your GP may refer you to a specialist, such as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if:
- the Epley manoeuvre doesn’t work or can’t be performed
- you still have symptoms after four weeks
- you have unusual signs or symptoms
In rare cases, where the symptoms of vertigo last for months or years, surgery may be recommended. This may involve blocking one of the fluid-filled canals in your ear. Your ENT specialist can give more advice on this.
If your vertigo is caused by Meniere’s disease, there are a number of treatment options for both the vertigo and other symptoms caused by the condition.
Possible treatments for Meniere’s disease include:
- dietary advice – particularly a low-salt diet
- medication to treat attacks of Meniere’s disease
- medication to prevent attacks of Meniere’s disease
- treatment for tinnitus (ringing in your ears) – such as sound therapy, which works by reducing the difference between tinnitus sounds and background sounds, to make the tinnitus sounds less intrusive
- treatment for hearing loss – such as using hearing aids
- physiotherapy to deal with balance problems
- treatment for the secondary symptoms of Meniere’s disease – such as stress, anxiety and depression
Central vertigo is caused by problems in part of your brain, such as the cerebellum (which is located at the bottom of the brain) or the brainstem (the lower part of the brain that’s connected to the spinal cord). Causes of central vertigo include migraines and, less commonly, brain tumours.
Treatment options: Pharmacologic treatments include diuretics, migraine prophylactic medications, histamine analogs, and oral steroids. With regards to alternative treatments, sometimes dietary changes alone can help greatly. A few studies show that acupuncture can be an effective treatment option in some people with Meniere’s disease.
Using ginkgo is interesting, as some treat Meniere’s disease as a cerebrovascular condition, which explains why ginkgo might be effective, as ginkgo can increase the cerebral blood flow. Other herbs and nutrients which might be beneficial include hawthorn, magnesium, and even garlic.
If your GP suspects you have central vertigo, they may organise a scan or refer you to a hospital specialist, such as a neurologist or an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) or audio vestibular physician.
Treating your migraine should relieve your vertigo if it’s caused by a migraine.
Vestibular migraines are characterised by attacks of spontaneous or positional vertigo lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few days. Headaches are often absent during acute attacks, but other migraines features such as photophobia or auras, may be present. Some of the triggers of vestibular migraines include stress, sleep deprivation, and hormonal changes. Vestibular migraines are more common in women, and the highest prevalence is in young adults and between the ages of 60 and 70.
Treatment options: Conventional medical treatment usually involves giving ant vertiginous and antiemetic drugs. Natural treatment methods can be effective at times and following an elimination diet is probably a good place to start, as food sensitivities can be the culprit. Hormone imbalances are also something to look into. There is evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction can play a role in migraines and so this is also something to look into. Vestibular rehabilitation can also be beneficial in some people.
Vestibular rehabilitation, also called vestibular rehabilitation training or VRT, is a form of “brain retraining”. It involves carrying out a special programme of exercises that encourage your brain to adapt to the abnormal messages sent from your ears.
During VRT, you keep moving despite feelings of dizziness and vertigo. Your brain should eventually learn to rely on the signals coming from the rest of your body, such as your eyes and legs, rather than the confusing signals coming from your inner ear. By relying on other signals, your brain minimises any dizziness and helps you to maintain your balance.
An audiologist (hearing specialist) may provide VRT. Your GP may be able to refer you for VRT, although it depends on availability in your area.
In some cases, it may be possible to use VRT without specialist.
Having food allergies or sensitivities can lead to dizziness and/or light-headedness. Of course, not everyone who has a food allergy or food sensitivity experiences dizziness or light-headedness, but it’s still something to look into. Elevated histamine levels might be responsible for the symptoms, and as a result, sometimes antihistamines are used.
Vertigo with an unknown cause
If the cause of your vertigo is unknown, you may be admitted to hospital if:
- you have severe nausea and vomiting, and can’t keep fluids down
- your vertigo comes on suddenly and wasn’t caused by you changing position
- you possibly have central vertigo
- you have sudden hearing loss, but it’s not thought to be Meniere’s disease
Alternatively, you may be referred to a specialist, such as:
- a neurologist – a specialist in treating conditions that affect the nervous system
- an ENT specialist – a specialist in conditions that affect the ear, nose or throat
- an audio vestibular physician – a specialist in hearing and balance disorders
While waiting to see a specialist, you may be treated with medication.