I respond that my specialty practice is powered by evidence and driven by empathy. The evidence behind Vestibular Rehab is the focus of my blogs, so I decided to write this blog to share with you the basis for my empathy.
The general concept that really motivated me to start my business of helping people with dizziness, vertigo and balance problems was seeing a population of patients that are completely falling through the cracks in our healthcare system today because the standard traditional medical model is not serving these patients adequately.
Patients I serve have often suffered for months or years with delays in care, inadequate evaluations, lack of proper diagnosis, inappropriate medications, unnecessary diagnostic tests, and with nowhere to really turn.
When I first got exposed to the vestibular population that I’m talking about, it was while I was working exclusively with geriatric patients because I had been doing home health physical therapy since 2004.
I took a course in Vestibular Rehabilitation in February of 2006 and I started assessing all of my home health patients for vestibular problems whether they were complaining of dizziness or not, in order to practice my new skills and to figure out how I could take better care of them.
What I found was that about 90-95% of my geriatric patients with any history of chronic falls, fall related injuries, dizziness, vertigo, or with complaints of imbalance or fear of falling, had undiagnosed vestibular problems.
I had never heard anything like that before, not even when I was in physical therapy school or from any of my colleagues. Seeing just how many older adults fall was the fuel for the initial fire that got lit inside of me to do something about this unrecognized and therefore underserved vestibular population.
The injuries are devastating. Injuries from falls are the number one reason that people stay in nursing homes without being able to return home or live alone after a hospital stay. Helping people with dizziness, vertigo, balance problems and falls in the geriatric population became my focus of advocacy work.
About 8 years ago, I had to take time off work and go on short term disabilty due to unexplained health problems. I was unaware at the time that I actually had vestibular related health issues. I didn’t even know at the time that I was a vestibular patient because nobody had diagnosed me with that.
I was seeing all these different healthcare providers, including different types of neurologists to try to get my symptoms treated which were primarily very severe migraines with vertigo and vomiting, motion-activated dizziness and other mysterious symptoms that were all related to vestibular issues and stress.
Nobody really helped me.
Then I attended the first offering of Advanced Vestibular Rehabilitation physical therapy continuing education course by the Neurological Specialty Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
There was a patient case study presented in that course that was exactly my story: a type-A, overworking, overachieving, high stress type personality with vestibular migraines, vertigo, vomiting episodes, dizzy spells, panic attacks, neck pain, and debilitating headaches.
My life was literally a vestibular patient case study and I couldn’t believe it! After about 25 years of having debilitating episodes of vertigo and dizziness myself that landed me in the emergency room repeatedly, I realized I was one of these patients!
I finally had an ah-ha moment and I realized not only are many older adults undiagnosed as vestibular patients, but I myself was an undiagnosed vestibular patient with a complex case that was causing significant disability!
Since I then understood how vestibular health problems could cause life-changing falls in older people and significant disability even in younger people like me, I was motivated to take action to help people with dizziness, vertigo, balance problems and falls who were being misunderstood and mismanaged.
On my own, I determined the source and root cause of my own health issues and my quality of life tremendously improved! After that, I realized that if I can help myself then I am more than capable of helping other people with vestibular problems… and I do, one at a time.
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.