In a Tizzy and Getting Dizzy

Having dizziness while driving is a common complaint, and no, not due to being under the influence of drugs. How many times have you pulled up to a red light, and a car beside you starts to move slightly and you suddenly feel like your car is moving? Or you turn to check your blind spot and you feel a little dizzy? How about feeling queasy if you’re driving past a line of trees? All of these are frequent issues that get brought up when people experience things like vertigo or just general dizziness.

The issue with dizziness while driving is pretty obvious, simply because the risk of severe injury to yourself and others is significantly higher. So what can be done about it? Dizziness has many potential causes, but dizziness that is brought about by movement of the head/neck or the body moving is usually going to be related to the vestibular system.

The vestibular system is based in the inner ear and consists of three fluid-filled canals in each ear that detect movements of your head.  If you’ve heard someone with vertigo talk about “crystals” in their ears, this area is what they’re talking about. The vestibular system communicates with your eyes and neck muscles/joints to tell your brain about how your head is moving.  If this info is conflicting or cannot be processed appropriately, the end result is usually going to be a feeling of dizziness. Getting these systems to coordinate is no different than strengthening a muscle, it’s just a little trickier to do.

An exercise that works to help calibrate the vestibular system is a simple head-turning motion while keeping your eyes fixated. The exercise, which is also a test, is called the vestibular-ocular reflex, or VOR.

To perform the VOR, it’s best to start in a sitting position, especially if you’re symptoms are more severe.  Find an object directly in front of you that is at eye level that you can clearly see (meaning that the object is not blurry). Slightly tuck your chin down – your eyes and ear canals should form a line that is parallel to the ground. Begin by slowly turning your head side to side like you’re saying “no” while keeping your eyes focused on the object you identified.

As you turn your head, if the object starts to become slightly blurry or you just barely start to feel dizzy, then you have the right speed for your head turns. If you cannot clearly see the object or you feel anything more than slight dizziness, you need to reduce the speed of your turns. Once you find the right speed, you should be able to do this for 1-2 minutes. Once you’ve stopped turning your head, your dizziness should return to the amount that you had prior to starting the VOR within a minute.

The vestibular system needs repeated stimulation to properly calibrate, so this exercise should be performed 3-5 times a day. If your symptoms don’t improve or worsen with this exercise, first make sure that you’re doing it correctly. The most common issue when performing this exercise is that people try to turn their head too fast and get a spike in their symptoms. If your symptoms do not improve or worsen, your first call should be a physical therapist. Dizziness is somewhat of a specialty area in physical therapy, so be sure that whoever you’re seeing has some experience.

Got questions? Feel limited in what you’re able to do? The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to discover your future without limits.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

Make an appointment

Limitless Physical Therapy – Eugene
1020 Green Acres Road
Suite 11
Eugene, OR 97408
(541) 654-0274
Fax (541) 228-9121

Schedule Your
Appointment Today

Contact Us
Skip to content