Dizziness, nausea, headache, feeling off-balanced, or a hard to describe “off” sensation are common symptoms associated with vestibular disorders. If you’re experiencing one, two, or all of these symptoms, you know that going to work, exercising, and socializing can become difficult or even impossible. If you are experiencing a vestibular disorder, you’re not alone. It is estimated that 35% of adults in the United States aged 40 and above have experienced symptoms related to a vestibular disorder [Source: Vestibular Disorders Association (VeDA) / www.vestibular.org].
For some, medications such as meclizine, antivert, and antihistamines are prescribed to help manage symptoms but they often don’t address the underlying cause of symptoms. A thorough exam by a trained vestibular physical therapist is imperative to determine the root cause of symptoms and develop an effective plan of care aimed at reducing symptoms, improving function, and increasing quality of life.
A comprehensive vestibular exam includes:
- Interview of your history, including past surgeries and illnesses
- Discussion of symptom complaints and symptom patterns
- Reviewing functional limitations related to your symptoms
- Neurological exam
- Musculoskeletal exam
- Oculomotor exam
- Positional testing
- Balance assessment
- Gait assessment
Examining and treating vestibular ailments can be complex, but the vast majority of patients find the relief they have been seeking. The approach to healing should be multifaceted and include an integration of multiple senses to optimize sensory function and communication to the central processing occurring in the brain. It is important to remember that each patient’s problem is unique to them, so is the therapy and the outcome.
Common vestibular ailments that can be helped by vestibular rehabilitation therapy include:
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Vestibular neuritis
- Vestibular labyrinthitis
- Meniere’s disease
- Concussion and Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS)
- Cervicogenic dizziness
- Persistent perceptual postural dizziness (PPPD)
To help understand how the vestibular system works, think of each inner ear as a propeller on an airplane. In order for the airplane to fly in a straight line, each propeller must produce an equal number of revolutions per second. If one of the propellers stops or slows, the airplane will veer off course. Likewise, when there is a change in one of the human vestibular systems’ outputs, we experience the feeling of turning or motion, which we call dizziness.
Vestibular rehabilitation therapy can help “reprogram” the human balance system to reduce symptoms and improve function. This is similar to reprogramming an airplane’s on-board computer to adjust and correct for the difference between the two propellers. In the case of a human vestibular disorder, the brain acts as the body’s on-board computer. With a tailored vestibular exercise prescription, the sensory communication and integration can be improved resulting in a reduction in symptoms and improvement in function.
Tailored treatment plans can include:
- Repositioning maneuvers
- Adaptation exercises
- Habituation exercises
- Compensation strategies
- Trigger Point Dry Needling
- Posture retraining
- Visual exercises
- Balance exercises
- Neuromuscular activation with the Redcord suspension system
- Joint mobilization
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Home exercise program
At Activcore, your vestibular physical therapist will give you a full hour of one-on-one attention, delivering customized treatment designed just for you. Our techniques and technology are engaging and effective, helping you achieve your physical goals in fewer visits. Together, we can help you improve your balance, reduce your risk of falling, and restore your quality of life.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.