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Exercises for Dizziness and Vertigo

By Mary Ann Wilson, RN

Vertigo is a sensation that you or your surroundings are moving when there is no actual movement. You may feel as though you are spinning, whirling, falling, or tilting. Severe vertigo may cause you to feel nauseated and vomit. Vertigo and other types of dizziness can greatly increase the risk of losing your balance and falling. Vertigo occurs when there is conflict between the signals sent to the brain by various balance- and position-sensing systems of the body.

Common causes of vertigo include:
• Inner ear disorders, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Ménière’s disease, vestibular neuritis, or labyrinthitis.
• Injury to the ear or head.
• Migraine headaches, which are painful, debilitating headaches that often occur with vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, noise, and smell.
• Decreased blood flow through the arteries that supply blood to the base of the brain (vertebrobasilar insufficiency).

Alcohol and many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause light-headedness or vertigo. These problems may develop from:
• Taking too much of a medicine (over-medicating) or drug interactions that often occur when taking multiple medications.
• Alcohol and medicine interactions. This is a problem, especially for older adults who may take many medicines at the same time.
• Misusing or abusing a medicine or alcohol.
• Drug intoxication or the effects of withdrawal.

***If you are experiencing dizziness or vertigo it is crucial to consult with a physician and request a referral to a physical therapist who specializes in vestibular treatment. Dizziness and vertigo should be taken very seriously as they exponentially increase fall risk. Decreasing activity is not a suitable long term solution to managing this condition. In most cases, the root problem can be identified and the condition can be improved, if not alleviated entirely.

Chair Exercise                                                                                                                                                                                                Generally speaking, Sit and Be Fit workouts provide appropriate exercises for those managing dizziness and vertigo since the majority of each workout is done seated in a chair, at a slow pace. This slow gentle approach to exercise with proper alignment is especially important if you are prone to dizziness or vertigo, specifically with regards to neck and head movements. However, before beginning Sit and Be Fit (or any exercise program), consult with your doctor.  suggests the following exercises to treat vertigo and improve balance, but as mentioned above, be sure to consult with your physician before practicing these exercises.

Seated Eye Exercises:
• Look up, then down. First, slowly, and then, quickly.
• Look from side to side. First, slowly, and then, quickly.
• Focus on your finger at arm’s length. Move your finger from side to side, keeping your eyes focused on the finger.

Seated Head Exercises:
• Bend your head forward, and then backward with eyes open. First, slowly, and then, quickly.
• Turn your head from side to side. First, slowly, and then, quickly.
• As your dizziness improves, these head exercises can be done with your eyes closed.

Seated Upper Body Exercises:
• Shrug your shoulders.
• Turn your shoulders from side to side.
• Bend forward and pick up objects from the ground. Then, sit up.

Standing Balance Exercises:
• Begin from a seated position.  Stand up and sit down again. Do this with eyes open.
• Repeat with your eyes closed. (only if this can be done safely, without feeling dizzy)
• In standing, pass a small rubber ball from one hand to the other under one knee.

Walking Balance Exercises:
• Walk across the room with your eyes open. Repeat this with your eyes closed. (only if this can be done safely)
• Walk up and down a slope with your eyes open. Repeat this with your eyes closed. (only if this can be done safely)
• Walk up and down stairs with your eyes open. Repeat this with your eyes closed. (only if this can be done safely)

 Related Blogs:

Balance Exercises

Vision and Balance

Eye Exercises for Fall Prevention

Recommended DVDs:

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  1. I have been dealing with dizziness for a year and a half now with doctors not giving me the information I need. I cannot do anything but make it to work some days and cannot go anywhere due to severe dizziness from the time I wake up to when I fall asleep. It has put a tremendous strain in my life and I need something to help subdue this issue. Your page says to consult my doctor before trying these excessively. What are the risks that I run trying them without consulting my doctor due to the lack of help I have received and how desperate I am for help. Thank you

    1. Dear Krys,
      You definitely need to see a physical therapist who specializes in vestibular disorders. They will provide you with the support and resources you need to address the underlying cause of your vertigo. Don’t be discouraged by your past experiences. Many, if not most, doctors are not trained in this area of treatment. In the meantime, any exercises you practice should be done from a seated position in a safe environment. It also might be a good idea to have someone else in the room with you. Hang in there! The right physical therapist will be able to help you. If you are in the Spokane area, Gentiva has a wonderful staff of trained experts who can assist. Wishing you the very best in resolving this so you can function normally again!

    2. I know what you are going thru as I have been dizzy for about 3 1/2 years and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year ago. I recently saw a neurologist who told me that they don’t do dizziness. Have done research since then and found out about toxins and tumors on nerves. Am glad that you asked the question about dizziness and exercise as I am dizzy when I am up but not when I lie down.

      1. Dear Ann,
        Your question is a good one for your PT or the doctor who prescribed your vertigo medicine. If they give you a green light to exercise, practice the movements from a seated position for safety. Start with fewer repetitions and slowly work up. Don’t do anything that makes you feel dizzier than you already are. Hopefully, you have a PT who specializes in vestibular issues. If not, seek one out. This is such a specialized field. It’s important to be working with a professional who has experience in this area of treatment. I’m sorry we don’t have a more direct answer to your question. Good luck with everything. Wishing you the very best always!

  2. great! thanks. most people don’t know that the vestibular system needs exercise too. years ago, i had a lot of dizziness and realized it was because i worked and exercised indoors. my eyes and head never had a chance to move!!!!

    1. For everyone with vestibular issues. There are ENT specialists who specializes in vertigo. Which is the same thing as vestibular issues. And there physical therapists who specialize in vestibular issues/vertigo. That is what helped me with mine. I haven’t had it for years until just recently it came back.

  3. I have a permanent vertigo and have been doing types of exercises through a physical therapist for about 6 months. The difference in my ability to walk and move is dramatic. My PT also identified a weakness in my right leg which exacerbated my imbalance, and gave me exercises to strengthen it. Practice these exercises daily. You’ll see a difference.

  4. I’m starting this now today! I’ve also been diagnosed with benign positional vertigo and was not given an real help on how to cure it or manage it. Thanks for this information.

    1. Dear Karen,
      Don’t give up hope! If your situation hasn’t improved yet, seek out a physical therapist who specializes in the vestibular system. This is a very specialized area of treatment. Their expertise should provide you with tools to help facilitate your recovery. Wishing you the very best!

  5. I feel the dark helps me,or sun glasses. I know it has to do with my ear.have had one eye operation,need another,but canit do it yet. does this eye hurt my vision?seem’s to be in this eye only.

    1. Dear Barbara, Thank you for sharing the tip about minimizing exposure to sunlight. Perhaps others will find this helpful too. Don’t give up on using exercises to help your condition. It would be great if you could find a physical therapist who specializes in this area of treatment. They would be the best resource to identify your specific condition and recommend exercises and other interventions to help you. Keep up the good work of seeking out ways to improve your situation! Wishing you the very best always.

  6. Thanks for your very informative information. I have just been diagnosed with peripheral vertigo last week and have been doing the Epley Maneuver at home for vertigo exercises. In addition to the exercises my doctor prescribed until I go to physical therapy Clinic in five weeks, I will do some of yours. So far, I have walked to 2 supermarkets and NO PROBLEMS. I’ll take it one day at a time. If there are changes, I will share it. I am hoping that this is temporary. Thanks again.

    1. Dear Sharon, Keep up with the exercises! It sounds like they’re helping already. It’s good you’re meeting with a physical therapist soon. Please share anything you think would be helpful to pass on to our viewers. Wishing you the best!

  7. I am a healthy 67 yr old woman. Exercise 2-5 times week. Eat healthy (was a certified health and nutrition coach) and really listen to my body. Feb 2018 I had a 2-month bout with severe vertigo/dizziness. Saw both my primary and ENT. Did some basic exercises and slowly went away. Returned in July to Aug. Did the same exercises but to no benefit. Continued to be very dizzy lying down and standing up. Eventually went away. Occurred again Dec 15 and is with me currently. I went to a 2nd ENT who sent me to a PT who has me on a number of exercises. BUT new symtoms surfaced this time and have been more the culprit then regular vertigo. I have pressure build up in the head that often starts at the base of the cranium then migrates to the middle. More prominent on the right side as is the vertigo/dizziness. The neurologist seen has me scheduled for a 3-part MRI next week (Jan 2019). The above has all been developed and recurring SINCE BEING ON A STATIN FOR CHOLESTEROL that was started Oct 2017. After now a year of excrutiating joint pain, severe fatigue the heart dr. did a lab to see my reaction to statin. “Off the chart”. I am not on it since Oct 2018. All symptoms gone EXCEPT the vertigo/dizziness and now this regular pressure. I think the statin crossed the brain barrier and is interfering with its functions. WHERE CAN I GO TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS THEORY or if studies have been done ? Thanks for any direction

    1. It sounds like you are your own best health advocate – so important, bravo! It’s fortunate too you are supported by a medical team that keeps digging. Thank you for sharing your story. We hope it will encourage others who find themselves in similar situations. We don’t have information on supporting studies that you asked about, but are interested in learning more. Please share any updates. In the meantime, we are so happy to hear you are doing much better and wish you a complete recovery. Keep up the great work of moving forward! Cheering you on, always:)

    1. Hi Susan, Unfortunately we don’t know anything about the condition of vertigo resulting from mold exposure. We encourage you to see a physical therapist who specializes in vestibular conditions. Share our exercises with them and ask if there are others that you can be doing. Wish we could be of more help! Keep up your search. Wishing you the best always:)

  8. What exercise is best for dizziness and nausea when looking upwards or tilting my head backwards. I have seen positioning exercises which tell you what to do for right sided or left sided problems to move the crystals in the inner ear, but if this is a problem of loose crystals where are they in my case and where can they be moved to. I do not have any dizziness on turning left or right. Also would add I do have substantial hearing loss and wear hearing aids.

    1. Dear Charles,
      We don’t know of any studies regarding vertigo problems and viruses. Hopefully, you can get in touch with a PT who specializes in vestibular issues. They would be a good resource. In the meantime, wishing you the very best!

  9. I did have vertigo years ago. it got better over time but never fully went away. since the end of Jan. 2019 I develope very off balance when I stood and tried to walk, I felt like a drunk, felt shortness of breath. I have been in Therapy for over a month now. I have pass most of the exercises, but when my therapist put me in that machine, and when that plate started to move up and down from heal to toe with my eyes closed I lost my balance, it was like my brain wasnt working with my sense of touch. I wish I knew what I could do for better exercises at home to have a speedy recovery. the unknown of when I will get over this is driving me crazy. there has been times it has affected my speech, I couldnt even say a complete sentance, the words would come out all scabble like a drunk that cant talk right. hard to find the right words that I want to say to my family/friends. to where before I had no problems throwing them words out there. I get to where I am short of breath. just be setting here and feel like I cant breath. I started my new c-pap back in Nov. 2018 for sleep apnea . ever since than I went down hill sick all winter with sinuses/ allergies, than lost of balance and shortness of breath. I want to blame it all on the c-pap machine. I feel I am under the influence of fake air when I wear it while I sleep. lol but it does help me stay breathing while I am sleeping so thats good. I really feel this vertigo off balance stuff could be caused from where we live and the air we breath and could be allergy related. JMO

    1. Dear Kathy,
      It sounds like you may have several things going on which can be so frustrating. As you said, the hardest part is not knowing when the symptoms will go away. It’s good you are working with a therapist for your vertigo issues. Hopefully, they are a specialist in this area. The changes in speech and shortness of breath sound unrelated. Be sure to discuss these symptoms with your healthcare provider. I wish we could offer more help. Keep up the slow steady progress and don’t give up on exercise! Wishing you the very best in health and happiness!

  10. I am a lady of 80 years and for the last year increasingly dizzy.. 4 years ago, had cateract surgery and 2 years ago, got hearing aids… Could any of this be the cause of my off balance..Otherwise have a full and healthy life…never been hosptitalized.. Basil cancer and chemo for 20 months.. All is ell now except for this pesky dizziness.

    1. Dear Peggy,
      It would be best if you visited a physical therapist, someone specializing in balance and vestibular issues. It’s important that you get to the bottom of the problem and identify the cause of your dizziness. Along with a diagnosis and treatment plan, the PT will likely provide you with take-home exercises. The sooner you are able to see a specialist the better so you can minimize your risk of falling. Wishing you the very best!

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