Vestibular disorders are surprisingly common and can be quite debilitating. It has been reported that as many as 35% of adults aged 40 years or older in the United States have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction. Patients with vestibular disorders often experience vertigo, dizziness, visual disturbances, instability, and difficulty with balance. The symptoms associated with vestibular dysfunction can impact all aspects of daily life. Fear of movement can lead to decreased endurance, decreased muscular strength, and avoidance of daily activities. The good news is that there are effective methods to reduce or completely eliminate symptoms through vestibular rehabilitation therapy.
What is Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy?
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is a specialized form of physical therapy designed to treat vertigo, dizziness, disequilibrium, and imbalance caused by the vestibular (inner ear) system. VRT utilizes exercises to promote central nervous system compensation for inner ear deficits. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapists at Cynergy Physical & Occupational Therapy are trained in treating vestibular conditions will make a thorough assessment and put together a personalized plan of care. With the properly designed program and treatment, people who are suffering from vestibular disorders can resume daily activities, increase their stability, reduce their risk of falling and enhance their quality of life.
Vestibular disorders that can benefit from Vestibular Rehabiliation Therapy include:
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Vestibular neuritis
- Acoustic neuroma
- Post-traumatic vertigo (ie: after a car accident)
- Cervicogenic Dizziness
Even for situations where the diagnosis is unclear, such as disequilibrium in the elderly, VRT can often prove helpful.
What is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)?
BPPV is the most common vestibular disorder and cause of vertigo (vertigo is the false sense of spinning). It is defined as a disorder of the inner ear characterized by repeated episodes of positional vertigo. BPPV is more common in the older population and many cases happen for no apparent reason. It involves the displacement of tiny inner ear crystals. Treatment of BPPV involves canalith repositioning treatments. A trained vestibular therapist evaluates and makes an assessment as to which ear and canal are affected. Techniques are then performed involving specific head and body movements to reposition the crystals in the inner ear.
What is Vestibular Neuritis and/or Labyrinthitis?
These conditions are closely related disorders. Vestibular neuritis involves swelling of one branch of the vestibulocochlear nerve that affects balance, while labyrinthitis involves both branches of the same nerve leading to balance and hearing deficits. Symptoms include sudden severe vertigo, dizziness, balance impairments, nausea, and possibly vomiting. Labyrinthitis can also include tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss. Once a patient has been evaluated by a specialized doctor, and the severe symptoms have subsided, they may be referred for vestibular rehabilitation. A skilled physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation and design a program to work on specific impairments. Therapy may include exercises to promote substitution, compensation, and habituation. Gaze stabilization, balance exercises, and gait training may all be included to help patients return to activities of daily living.