Common Causes of Dizziness Explained

In the clinic, we see many patients who come into the clinic complaining of dizziness or secondarily mention it to their therapist while having a different area of their body treated. Dizziness impacts about 15% of the population. Here are common causes of dizziness most often seen in the clinic.

Symptoms include (not limited to):

-a false sense of spinning or motion (vertigo)

-lightheadedness, feeling faint

-unsteadiness or loss of balance

These symptoms can be triggered by standing, walking, or changing positions. Sometimes these feelings can occur suddenly and can be severe and limit your activity. Nausea can go along with these symptoms and can last seconds to days. 

There are many causes of dizziness. Dizziness can occur due to inner ear issues, medications, or motion sickness. See your doctor if these symptoms are reoccurring, sudden, and severe or if the symptoms are unexplained.

Many inputs affect dizziness

In general, your balance depends on the input from your eyes, sensory nerves, and inner ear. The eyes help determine where your body is in space.  The sensory nerves send messages to the brain about body movements/positions. The inner ear has sensors that detect gravity.

When the inner ear is involved, the brain gets signals that are not consistent with what the eyes and sensory nerves receive. Thus, resulting in vertigo or a spinning sensation.

Here are a few common causes of inner ear issues.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)

This is the most common cause of vertigo or feeling of unsteadiness. BPPV accounts for 8% of all complaints of dizziness or vertigo. BPPV usually occurs when bending over, rolling over in bed, or getting up from a lying down position. Physical therapy helps treat this disorder by performing certain maneuvers to move the otoconia through the semicircular canals.


A viral infection of the vestibular nerve, called vestibular neuritis, can cause intense, constant vertigo. Labyrinthitis is associated with acute hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ear). Medication is helpful with these types of infections

Meniere’s disease

This disease involves the excessive buildup of fluid in your inner ear. Meniere’s is characterized by sudden episodes of vertigo lasting 20 minutes to 12 hours. Progressive hearing loss, ringing in the ear, and imbalance increase with disease progression and are some of the most common symptoms. Typically, medication or injections are helpful. Sometimes physical therapy can help if there are secondary BPPV symptoms.


People who experience migraines may have episodes of vertigo or other types of dizziness even when not having a severe headache. Vertigo can last minutes to hours and may be associated with a headache, as well as sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. The course of treatment is usually medication. Physical therapy can help people through education and discussion of triggers, an exercise routine, and balance/habituation exercises.

These are a few examples that contribute to vestibular hypofunction. Physical therapy can help patients manage dizziness/vertigo in many cases and help improve balance to decrease the risk of falling and injury.

Don’t wait for your symptoms to be severe, speak with a Vestibular Physical Therapist to help get your dizziness and vertigo under control, to allow you to ENJOY MORE FREEDOM

Heather Barry is a well-rounded therapist specializing in general orthopedics, TMJ treatment, pelvic physical therapy, and dry needling.