LOUISVILLE, Ky. — You're going about your day and then, all of the sudden, you're dizzy, lightheaded and maybe nauseous.
You could be suffering from a case of vertigo.
These effects can last minutes or days, if not longer, for some people.
Today, physical therapists are seeing a rise in people suffering from vertigo and there's no clear reason as to why. But there are treatments available.
Morgan Robertson is part of the team who's seen a spike in vertigo cases in her 7 years as a physical therapist.
One of the more common types of vertigo has to do with the design of one's inner ear and the small calcium crystals inside it, she said. They sense gravity and motion. When they become disconnected, they can send incorrect signals to your brain and send you spiraling to the floor.
To combat this, Robertson uses a special pair of goggles that record uncontrolled eye movements that accompany dizziness. Known as the gold standard, they provide a clearer picture of the type of vertigo you might have, allowing for better treatment.
"The eyes are going to tell me exactly what's going on in the inner ear, which will point me in the direction of how to treat that vertigo," Robertson said. "It is very treatable and manageable."
Research shows you're at greater risk for vertigo the older you are, and Robertson said the majority of her patients are between the ages of 60 and 80 years old.
Other factors for vertigo could include head trauma or stroke.
For Sherrill Zimmerman, her vertigo spells come on quickly and are over in a matter of minutes.
"It's just real debilitating. You couldn't get up without holding onto things," she said.
Zimmerman has received physical therapy for the last two months with a piece of technology called the Bertec. The Bertec features virtual reality and balancing exercises to help keep her vertigo at bay. Everything's personalized to the person who steps onto the platform.
"I can do balanced training where they have their eyes closed and the platform might be moving," Robertson said, who's always right behind the person going through the exercises ready to step in if needed.
"Having a trained person to do that with you has made all the difference in the world for me," Zimmerman said.
"That's the joy of my job, getting people to do the things they really want to do and feeling good when they do it," Robertson said.
If you're feeling symptoms of severe dizziness and lightheadedness, Robertson said you should go to the ER first because you don't know if you're having a stroke or something more serious.
Doctors can quickly refer patients to a physical therapist once everything else is ruled out during that initial visit.