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Physical Therapy Can Help with Vertigo and Balance Issues

Do you ever feel dizzy or have a sensation that the room is spinning? Equilibrium issues like vertigo, as well as weakness in the legs, can affect your mobility and make it hard to balance. But you don’t have to live with these issues. Physical therapy can often help to get rid of vertigo and build up your strength so you can stay balanced and live your life fully.

“Vertigo can be very disruptive and difficult, but we have techniques and maneuvers that will stop the vertigo,” said Shelja Bansal, a physical therapist at the Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. “You don’t have to live with dizziness.”

Bansal will present the upcoming “Fall Prevention and Balance” seminar that will outline the benefits of physical therapy in alleviating dizziness and balance problems. The free health and wellness seminar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 8, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, MD, Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Ave. (Washington West), in Fremont. You can register online at or by calling (800) 963-7070.

Vertigo, described as dizziness by some patients, is usually the result of a problem in the inner ear, she explained. The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, is responsible for maintaining your equilibrium. Injury and illness as well as certain medications and age can affect how the vestibular system functions. Anybody can get vertigo, but it seems to be more common in older adults, Bansal added.

“There are three main systems in the body that control equilibrium and balance,” explained Sharmi Mukherjee, director and lead physical therapist at the Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. “They are vision, the inner ear, and the sensory feedback you receive from your feet and legs, which also incorporates muscle strength. If any of these three get affected, the possibility of a fall is very high. In therapy, we focus on the inner ear and strengthening the lower extremity muscles to help you balance better.”

Serious falls are a major cause of injuries, hospitalizations and deaths among older adults over the age of 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preventing Falls

“About one in three adults age 65 or older suffers a fall each year,” Mukherjee said. “Physical therapy can help to improve strength, movement and balance, which can reduce your risk of falling.”

During the seminar, Bansal will explain what you can expect from your physical therapy visits and how they can help. First, you will be evaluated to see what you are experiencing, whether it’s dizziness/vertigo, muscle weakness or other issues that affect balance and mobility. Each patient receives an individualized treatment plan that is specifically designed to address your needs, she said.

“We evaluate your situation and figure out what is causing your balance problems,” Bansal added. “It might be that you need a referral to a doctor because you have an underlying condition that should be treated by a neurologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor.”

Often people who have vertigo can actually get rid of their condition for good after a few physical therapy visits. Typically, three to four visits will improve the inner ear condition, and then a maintenance program is taught to continue at home. That is if the condition is purely vestibular, she explained. Patients with weakness and mobility issues may be provided with exercises they can do at home to continually improve their balance.

“It just depends on what your individual diagnosis and condition is,” she said. “But the bottom line is you don’t have to live with it. We can help.”

At the seminar, Bansal will also provide tips for making your own living environment safer so you can reduce your chances of falling at home. That could be installing grab bars in the shower or removing rugs that you could trip over.

For more information about physical therapy services or to make an appointment, call 510.794.9672 or visit To learn about other programs and services at Washington Hospital that can help you stay healthy, visit