Sometimes we cannot avoid moving around with vertigo because we need to go to the bathroom or perform other normal daily activities. The problem is that moving around with vertigo can cause falls, so I offer these tips and suggestions for people who need to safely move around with vertigo.
The best way to safely move around with vertigo really depends on your individual case of vertigo, the severity of your symptoms, your other medical conditions and the general strength of your abdominals, back, and leg muscles.
I highly recommend consulting with a Vestibular Physical Therapist to evaluate your vertigo symptoms and also to determine the safest way for you to move around. I share some general tips on how to safely move around with vertigo in this blog.
First of all, if you are having vertigo, but you can still walk around safely on your own, I suggest for you to spread your feet wide apart, and maybe walk with your arms wide also, like a toddler. This will widen your base of support and improve your feelings of walking stability.
If you need to turn while you are walking, turn slowly and carefully because turning can sometimes make vertigo feel worse.
You can also drag your hands along the wall while you walk to give yourself another touch point in order to “triangulate” your balance. The triangle concept includes your two feet as two points in the triangle and the touch point of your hand contacting a solid surface as the third point to triangulate your balance.
A touch as light as what is required to read braille can give your brain enough information to “triangulate” your balance while standing or walking.
Although it is not very safe, some people also find added stability in reaching out to touch solid furniture like beds, couches or tables that will not budge.
Sometimes using a cane or walker can help you move with vertigo, but other times, neither one of these assistive devices help because they require coordination skills that may be affected by vertigo. Use your best judgment about the benefits of using a cane or walker, and whether it is even safe for you to attempt to walk on your own.
Holding onto the arm of a loved one can help you to feel more steady while walking with vertigo, but only if that loved one has good balance and strength.
If you have a physically strong person available to help you, another alternative method of getting around while experiencing vertigo is using a wheelchair. If you are strong enough, you may even be able to drive the wheelchair by yourself, using your arms and possibly also using your legs.
One more strategy for getting around that many of my patients use to safely move around with vertigo is crawling on the floor. Being close to the floor almost guarantees that you cannot fall and is often the safest place to be while moving around during a vertigo attack.
I have met many patients who spent days to weeks crawling to the bathroom and from room to room in their home, especially if they lived alone and had no one to help them move around.
Crawling may not be a good option for people with very painful knees, so getting down on the floor and then sliding or scooting on your bottom is another option.
But I caution you to make sure you can get up off the floor before you get down and start crawling or scooting around. Crawling and scooting around on the floor, and then getting up off the floor, require a lot of abdominal strength.
People with inner ear – or vestibular – causes of vertigo can often sit up, stand up and walk on their own – even if they feel unsteady and disoriented – unless they have other medical problems like diabetic foot neuropathy, poor muscle strength or vision problems.
If you have a sudden onset of severe dizziness or vertigo and you are unable to sit up, stand up or walk without help, you may need emergency medical care. For ischemic strokes in the posterior fossa area of the brain, sometimes severe dizziness or vertigo is the only neurological symptom.
If you are having dizziness or vertigo, I highly recommend for you to consult with a Vestibular Physical Therapist as soon as possible to prevent the physical deconditioning and loss of muscle strength associated with chronic dizziness and vertigo.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.