Gaze Stabilization: How to Deal with Dizziness

Headshot senior man with vertigo. Elderly male patient suffering from dizziness isolated on light blue background .

“The room is not spinning, I just don’t feel right.”

Some people have heard of the diagnosis of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), when the crystals in one’s inner ear become dislodged and they experience the “room spinning” sensation. However, what does it mean when the room isn’t spinning, but you’re still dizzy or light headed? The vestibular system is the system in your body that provides your sense of balance and spatial orientation, allowing you to move in a coordinated manner. There are several vestibular system deficits that may result in the sensation of dizziness and being off balance. One of the most common issues that may occur is difficulty or dysfunction with habituation and gaze stabilization.

Habituation is your body’s ability to become used to certain head or trunk movements. Gaze stabilization is the ability to control your eye movement even when your head or surrounding environment is moving. Imagine you are driving your car on the highway, your car is moving, your environment around you is moving, the other cars are moving, this is a lot of movement for your brain to process and respond to all at once.

Certain pathologies such as neck pain, concussion, neurological conditions, whiplash injury, dehydration, cardiac pathology and sedentary lifestyle may all cause one to experience difficulty with habituation and gaze stabilization. This is due to the fact that if a certain underlying condition prevents a person from moving their head and neck appropriately or through their full range of motion, their brain can lose its ability to process the information it is receiving from the vestibular system with regard to where your head and body are in relation to your environment, resulting in the sensation of dizziness.

So how cane we fix that? Will I ever be normal? Repeated exposure to specific movements or visual stimuli that provoke patients’ dizziness can re-train your brain to better process this information. Physical therapists can help you to work on specific exercises that are designed to provoke your dizziness to allow you to reduce your symptoms during every day movements. What this means is repeating the same movements eventually helps your brain process this information in a succinct manner, so that you no longer have those symptoms during every day activities.

If you are experiencing dizziness, you do not have to continue to suffer, seek out your physical therapist and they will be more than happy to rid you of your symptoms!

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This blog post was written by Stephanie Franciose, PT, DPT, from Milford Regional Medical Center Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine. There are three Milford Regional Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine: Milford, Franklin and Northbridge. Stephanie can be reached at our Northbridge location at 100 Commerce Drive, or by calling (508) 234-8792. 

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