Vestibular physical therapy is very helpful to resolve many types of vertigo. Even after the outcome has resolved the vertigo symptoms, many patients have lingering fears after recovering from vertigo.
In this blog, I will share some common fears I hear from my patients after successful vertigo treatment. I will share some tips and link to additional educational resources on each topic.
Fear of Traveling
Traveling is one of the most common fears after recovering from vertigo. This is one of the topics I cover with almost all of my patients as we wrap up our work together. Key points of our conversation are to always travel with vertigo medications on hand.
Traveling is always a possible trigger for vertigo, so preparation is the key.
What to Do
People can plan extra days to recover from traveling during the trip in case vertigo gets triggered. For example, you could arrive a few days early to rest before an important event.
You can also schedule an appointment with your vestibular physical therapist or vertigo doctor for after you return from traveling, in case you had a flare up. I have some patients who book an appointment with me on the day after they return from any and every trip, just in case their vertigo recurs while traveling.
I also wrote extensively on the topic of traveling with vertigo in four other blog articles, which you can find on my two blog websites:
- Traveling with Vertigo
- Flying with Vertigo
- Traveling with Vertigo Helpful Strategies
- Travel Tips for People with Dizziness and vertigo
Fear of Complex Environments
Going into certain big box stores or grocery stores is another one of the common fears after recovering from vertigo. Many patients have avoided certain stores for days, to weeks, to months, to years while suffering with vertigo. Thinking about returning to a store that previously provoked vertigo can trigger fear.
What to Do
After successful treatment, I may suggest for a patient just to go walk around that store for a few minutes without even shopping. They can practice breathing and other calming techniques to stabilize their nervous system while they walk around for a few minutes in that visually complex environment.
This is one example of how patients can overcome their fears of visually complex environments after successful vertigo treatment. Other visually complex environments may include moving traffic, large crowds, movie theaters, or music concerts.
Patients may be able to desensitize to these situations by specific training in vestibular physical therapy.
Fear of Lighting Conditions
Many patients with vertigo are triggered by specific lighting conditions. This may include bright lights, flickering lights, strobe lights, disco ball lighting, candlelight, or low lighting.
Each patient is different, so their triggers related to lighting conditions vary. Lighting conditions are especially triggering for patients with migraines or vestibular migraines. Sometimes specific lighting conditions cause lingering fears after recovering from vertigo.
What To Do
Strategies that some patients use include removing themselves from situations with lighting that might trigger a migraine. Educating family and friends about lighting triggers for vertigo can also help.
If patients are triggered by certain lighting conditions, they may be able to desensitize to those conditions through vestibular PT.
However, if the lighting condition is a migraine trigger, then desensitization will not likely work. The best strategy is to avoid these lighting triggers or leave the situation as soon as possible to minimize exposure.
Fear of Certain Movements or Positions
Many patients develop fear of certain movements due to vertigo. My colleague calls this “kinesiophobia.”
This fear of movement can develop into a hypervigilance. For example, the patient may turn very slowly and avoid any quick movements. The patient may avoid lying flat and then still avoid lying down after vertigo is treated to resolution.
What To Do
Avoiding certain movements or positions can be a good strategy to prevent vertigo when it is actively present.
However, when vertigo is successfully resolved, overcoming these lingering fears after recovery from vertigo are important. This can improve the quality of life and prevent hypervigilance.
In vestibular physical therapy, we can use desensitization exercises called habituation. After any BPPV is resolved, habituation exercise programs can help patients overcome fear of certain movements.
Fear of Having Another Vertigo Attack
This is one of the most common fears after recovering from vertigo.
Yet even patients who don’t suffer from anxiety or PTSD may worry about having another vertigo attack.
Vertigo is not really thought to be a preventable condition, so a focus on prevention is not really helpful.
What To Do
But in general, there is always a risk that someone could have another vertigo attack. For that reason, I typically share these two blogs with my patients after our final visit:
I also encourage them to schedule another visit with me as soon as possible, if they notice any recurrence of symptoms or have another vertigo attack.
I hope the resources and information I have shared alleviate some of your fears after recovery from vertigo.
If fears are significant or persistent, a consultation with a licensed clinical psychologist or neuropsychologist may be helpful for some patents.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to the inspirational faculty at Johns Hopkins University Vestibular Competency Certification Course for addressing this important topic during the training course content. For clinicians with an interest in vestibular medicine, you can learn more or register for the JHU vestibular course here.
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.