Vestibular issues can result from age-related changes, environmental conditions, disease, or head injuries that damage the processing areas of the vestibular system. Vestibular dysfunction involves issues within the brain and inner ear that control balance and eye movements. More simply, your inner ear is telling your brain that you’re moving when you’re really not. Falling is not inevitable as we age. With vestibular therapy, your balance can improve.
Balance is a result of the interaction of three separate systems in the body:
• The Vestibular System (the inner ear) provides the brain with information about the position and motion of the head in relation to gravity.
• The Visual System, which helps us see things in the environment and orients us to the hazards and opportunities presented.
• The Proprioceptors/ Somatosensory Receptors which are located in joints, ligaments, muscles, and the skin to provide information about joint angle, muscle length, and muscle tension, all of which provides information about the position of the limb in space.
The brain needs input from all three systems to distinguish motion of the self from motion of the environment. Any mismatch in these inputs can produce nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
When should I seek out treatment for vestibular issues?
Vestibular dysfunction involves issues within the brain and inner ear that control balance and eye movements, the most frequently diagnosed disorder being Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (which is also the most common cause of vertigo). Unfortunately, MRI or medical imaging is not helpful in attaining an accurate diagnosis nor is medication effective in treating the underlying condition. When it comes to vertigo, or a false sense of spinning, physical therapy may not be the first thing that comes to mind but in many cases, PT can quickly address the issue and resolve symptoms to stop the spinning. A skilled physical therapist is familiar with testing and treating this condition and is trained in understanding the anatomy and disease characteristics to determine which ear and canal is affected.
How can Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) help?
The goal of vestibular physical therapy treatment is to improve mobility and strength while reducing headaches, dizziness and other symptoms that may be experienced. Your PT will work with you one-on-one to assess and address your specific symptoms and impairments to better understand your needs and to craft a unique treatment plan to fit your goals and lifestyle. There will be an assessment of orthopedic, vestibular and CNS (Central Nervous System) systems to understand where deficits are most prominent.
Your custom physical therapy program may include:
• Manual therapy techniques to improve cervical vertebrae mobility
• Trigger point and soft tissue release of hypertonic “tight” neck muscles
• Postural correction and cervical proprioception
• Deep neck flexor muscle endurance training
• Gaze stabilization with head movement
• BPPV roll maneuvers to reposition the crystal
• Therapeutic exercises
• Patient education to provide tools to perform self maneuvers to maintain dizziness relief at home
• Screening for other vestibular conditions that may be associated with BPPV
Physical therapy can provide the necessary tools to treat vestibular dysfunction, helping you to return to a pain-free (and spin-free) life. Contact us to learn more about how we can provide relief from dizziness and balance issues associated with vestibular dysfunction.
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