Physiotherapist spreading the word on vertigo


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This article was published 09/02/2011 (4315 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Reema Sohal still vividly recalls the September morning when she rolled over in bed and it felt like the room was spinning.

“It was really a frightening experience for me,” Sohal said. “Everything started spinning.”

Feeling dizzy and unbalanced, Sohal headed for the emergency room where she was told she had an inner ear infection.

Arielle Godbout Andrea Giacobbo shows off a model of the inner ear. Disorders affecting the inner ear often responsible for episodes of vertigo, where the room feels like it’s spinning.

The doctors gave her medication to help her keep her balance, but Sohal — who lives in the South Pointe community in Waverley West — soon found herself back at the ER when the room-spinning feeling returned.

“My physician was getting worried,” she recalled. “I was fainting and my blood pressure was going down.”

Doctors ran blood tests and performed a lumbar puncture — commonly called a spinal tap — in an attempt to figure out what might be wrong.

It was finally her husband’s Internet research that led Sohal to believe she might be suffering from episodes of vertigo.

The realization led her to Andrea Giacobbo, the owner of Seine River Physiotherapy, who is trained to deal with all types of vertigo.

And while physio quickly cured the condition causing Sohal’s vertigo, the lumbar puncture damaged tissue surrounding one of her spinal discs, leaving her on disability leave.

She said a lack of knowledge about vertigo and the common conditions that cause it are partly to blame for her misfortune.

“I wouldn’t have had to go through all this if (the doctor) had known,” Sohal said, as she quietly began to cry. “They were telling me all the symptoms, but they didn’t know what it was.”

For Giacobbo, stories like Sohal’s are what inspire her to spread the message about the conditions that can lead to vertigo and the simple treatments that are available.

The physiotherapist was first initiated to vertigo about a year and a half ago, when a client was referred to her office on St. Anne’s Road for neck stiffness.

“The second I tried to lay his head down, the room started to spin,” she recalled. “I realized he had neck stiffness because he couldn’t move his head without wanting to vomit.”

She started doing research, searching for a clinic that could treat her client’s condition — eventually leading her to the physiotherapists at the Pan Am Clinic.

And while the Health Sciences Centre also offers physio treatments for vertigo, Giacobbo said she felt there was a need for more physiotherapists to offer these treatments.

And so, last March, she headed to the U.S. to attend training for vertigo-related disorders.

Vertigo — which is different from dizziness — is most often cause by vestibular, or ear-related, disorders, Giacobbo said.

While the feet play the most important role in keeping balance when a person is standing on stable ground, on uneven ground or a moving surface, the ears take over most of the work, she explained.

The most common disorder is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV — the condition that had inflicted Sohal — and is easily and quickly treated.

BPPV occurs when naturally-formed crystals that sit in the inner ear and help with balance become dislodged.

Physiotherapy can help restore the crystals to their proper position, Giacobbo explained, adding it often only takes one session.

Other conditions that can cause vertigo include nerve irritations, ear infections or Meniere’s Disease — a fluid buildup in the ear —and take more time to treat than BPPV, she said.

A few other private clinics in Winnipeg are also now offering the treatments, Giacobbo said, but not enough doctors are aware of the disorders or understand that medical help is available.

To try to get the word out, the physiotherapist added, she’s sent letters out to various doctors informing them of the conditions and treatments.

Another of her patients, Joanne Marchand, said if it weren’t for her personal connection to Giacobbo — the two are friends — she wouldn’t have realized the physio treatment existed for her vertigo.

Sohal said she’s speaking out because no one should go through what she did.

“I want to convey (the message).”

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