Move Better, Perform Better
Improve your balance and walking ability at the M&M Physical Therapy Center for Balance and Gait. Rehabilitation consists of exercises aimed at decreasing the dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and imbalance associated with inner ear dysfunction.
When the vestibular system is compromised, individuals cannot rely on it to give them accurate information about movement and equilibrium. Medical or surgical intervention is not indicated or helpful in many of these cases. However, most individuals will benefit from vestibular rehabilitation.
What is vestibular rehabilitation?
Vestibular rehabilitation works by retraining the central nervous system to compensate for damage to inner ear organs. Exercises may also focus on teaching patients to utilize alternative strategies, and/or adapt intact systems to help decrease symptoms and maintain balance.
Individuals with a variety of vestibular problems, including Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), unilateral or bilateral vestibular hypofunction (reduced inner ear function affecting one or both sides), and specific disorders including Meniere’s Disease, acoustic neuroma, labyrinthitis, or vestibular neuritis, can benefit from vestibular rehabilitation.
What is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)?
BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo, or the feeling that you, your head, or the room, is spinning. This vertigo occurs when “crystals” or “ear rocks” get dislodged from their usual position in the inner ear (the utricle), and migrate to another inner ear organ (the semicircular canals), where they get stuck. It is characterized by brief periods of dizziness (usually under one minute) ranging from mild to severe, resulting from a change in head position. It may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, abnormal eye movements (nystagmus), and imbalance.
Some of the most common position changes that trigger vertigo include going from lying down to sitting up in bed, rolling over in bed, looking up or down, bending over to pick something up, or lying down in bed. This condition may occur due to head trauma, illness, viruses, degeneration of the vestibular system in the inner ear, or for unknown reasons. This type of vertigo can typically be treated in only a few visits.
What should I expect during vestibular rehabilitation?
A qualified physical therapist will perform an evaluation, including a medical history, subjective report of symptoms, and examination of posture, range of motion, strength, balance, and walking ability. The physical therapist will also perform vision and eye-head coordination testing, which will assess eye movement alone and in combination with head movements, as well as your ability to focus on objects. The assessment may also include tests to evaluate the effect of particular positions on symptom severity.
Questionnaires may also be used to determine the symptom intensity and effect on daily activities. The physical therapist will utilize the information gathered from the evaluation to create an individualized treatment program based on each patient’s unique presentation. Treatment may involve performing, eye, head or body movements that provoke dizziness or vertigo in order to promote adaptation, and eventual decrease in symptoms. Therapy may also include balance activities to improve stability. Exercises will be done in the clinic, and each patient will be given a home exercise program to supplement this treatment.
What does vestibular rehabilitation do and how does it help?
Over time, the brain, body, and intact balance systems adjust in response to the movements done during vestibular rehabilitation exercises. At first, symptoms may increase as the brain and body begin to process and accommodate to new stimuli and movement patterns.
However, with continued rehabilitation and adherence to home exercises, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and associated symptoms will decrease. Additionally, balance and walking ability should improve, and symptom-provoking daily activities should become easier to perform.