Image of senior woman receiving physical therapy from therapist on exercise mat

Giving physical therapy (PT) early to people with dizziness was linked to a reduction in fall risk for the next 12 months, according to a new study. 

For the study, which was published on Sept. 14 in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, scientists looked at medical claims data from 805,454 people over the age of 18 who expressed feeling dizzy to their doctors. All the people in the study were diagnosed with dizziness and giddiness, or a vestibular disorder, between 2006 and 2015. The data was evaluated between 2021 and 2023. The mean age of the participants was 52. 

Of the participants, 7% had a fall that required medical care within the past year of first seeing the doctor. But when people participated in PT within three months of seeing their doctors for dizziness, there was an 86% reduction in the odds of falling by 12 months.

Compared with those who did not receive a prescription for PT, those who had PT within three months of feeling dizzy were 7.1 times less likely to fall between three and 12 months, 5.6 times less likely to fall between six and 12 months, and 4.3 times less likely to fall between nine and 12 months.

Among those studied, six percent got a prescription for PT and began it within three months of going to their doctors for dizziness. People less likely to get PT were 50 to 59 years old compared to those in the 18-to-39 age bracket and those with comorbidities.

Some research suggests that dizziness is associated with an up to 12-fold increase in the risk of falls in people over the age of 40.

“Timely PT referral for dizziness may be beneficial for these patients,” the authors said.