Dizzy? Maybe It’s Your Vestibular System

October 11, 2023

Are you having problems with dizziness? This may be caused by something called the vestibular system. Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the management of disorders related to the vestibular system. The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining balance, spatial orientation, and coordination of eye and head movements. When the vestibular system doesn’t work right, it can result in various symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, and difficulty with gaze stabilization.

Here are some key aspects of how physical therapy can be applied to address vestibular system-related issues:

  • Assessment and Diagnosis: A physical therapist with expertise in vestibular rehabilitation will begin by conducting a thorough evaluation to determine the specific nature and cause of the vestibular dysfunction. This may involve a series of tests and questions to assess balance, eye movements, and other relevant functions.
  • Customized Treatment Plans: Based on the assessment, the therapist will develop a customized treatment plan tailored to the individual’s needs. The goal is to address the underlying vestibular problem and improve the patient’s functional abilities.
  • Gaze Stabilization Exercises: Many vestibular disorders lead to difficulties in maintaining a stable visual focus, which can result in symptoms like dizziness and nausea. Gaze stabilization exercises involve training the eyes and head to work together smoothly to maintain focus during head movements.
  • Balance Training: Balance exercises are crucial for individuals with vestibular disorders as they help improve stability and reduce the risk of falls. These exercises may involve various challenges such as standing on one leg, walking on uneven surfaces, or using balance equipment.
  • Canalith Repositioning Maneuvers: For conditions like benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which is characterized by dislodged calcium particles (crystals) in the inner ear, physical therapists can perform canalith repositioning maneuvers to reposition these particles, alleviating symptoms.
  • Sensory Integration Exercises: Vestibular rehabilitation may also include exercises that help the brain better integrate information from the vestibular system, visual system, and proprioceptive system (sensory input from muscles and joints) to improve overall balance and coordination.
  • Education and Lifestyle Recommendations: Therapists provide education on how to manage symptoms and make necessary lifestyle adjustments. This may include advice on avoiding triggers, modifying daily activities, and making changes to the environment to reduce the risk of falls.
  • Progress Tracking: Throughout the rehabilitation process, physical therapists continually assess progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed to ensure the best possible outcomes.
  • Home Exercise Programs: Patients are often given exercises to perform at home to reinforce the gains made during in-office sessions.

Vestibular rehabilitation can be highly effective in improving the quality of life for individuals with vestibular disorders. It helps reduce symptoms, enhance balance, and enable patients to regain their independence in daily activities.

Reach out to your New Life Physical Therapist to discuss if you would benefit from vestibular rehab.