If you’ve experienced a recent accident or injury in Abington that resulted in blunt trauma to the head or neck, you are likely to experience vertigo and dizziness. Up to 80 percent of accident victims suffer symptoms as a result of their injury; these may persist for a week or longer, and one out of every five individuals in Pennsylvania will experience chronic post-concussive dizziness that may continue for years. The medical term for this is post-traumatic vertigo, a condition few are aware of — but one that illustrates the importance of seeking treatment as soon as possible following a traumatic head or neck injury.
Understanding Dizziness and Vertigo
Vertigo is a balance disorder that produces a sensation of movement even though none is actually occurring. Patients with vertigo often feel like the room is spinning. This occurs when a problem in the inner ear disrupts signals from the vestibular system, three pairs of canals located behind the ears that tell the brain where the head is in relation to movement. The vestibular system (also known as the balance system) is instrumental in enabling us to keep our balance and coordination. It detects your head position in relation to body movements and gravity, helping the brain reposition your eyes, neck and limbs to compensate for this movement and prevent you from falling. Head and neck trauma or concussion can interfere with proper functioning of the vestibular system and lead to vertigo, dizziness, and a diverse set of symptoms including lightheadedness, feeling faint, double vision, nausea and vomiting.
The severity of symptoms varies per individual. Each case of post-traumatic vertigo is unique; while the exact cause may differ, experts believe 60 percent of episodes are the result of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This occurs when the impact forces of the traumatic event cause debris in the ear canals to break loose and float freely around the inner ear, producing sensations of vertigo and dizziness. BPPV can affect people of all ages and may be triggered by other factors, but in patients who have suffered a head or neck injury, symptoms typically occur in both ears, as opposed to being confined to one ear when resulting from other conditions.
How is Post-Traumatic Vertigo Treated
Post-traumatic vertigo can significantly impact a patient’s life. Long-term effects might include headaches, anxiety, psychological distress and work-related disability. To limit these problems, a number of solutions are available. The go-to treatment for BPPV is the canalith repositioning procedure, a series of prescribed head movements that help force the free-floating crystals out of the ear canals so they no longer cause symptoms. These physical therapy maneuvers bring relief to about eight out of 10 patients.
Other strategies for reducing the long-term effects of post-traumatic vertigo include:
- Physical and cognitive rest
- Anti-nausea medications
- Exercise-based vestibular rehabilitation
- Minimization of environmental triggers
- Migraine treatments (if applicable)
Individuals who have been involved in an accident that resulted in head or neck trauma and are now experiencing episodes of vertigo and dizziness should schedule an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor in Abington as soon as possible.