Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

woman receiving vestibular treatment

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) treats vestibular disorders or symptoms, characterized by dizziness, vertigo and trouble with balance and vision. These symptoms can also result in nausea, fatigue and lack of concentration.

The term “vestibular” refers to the inner ear system and its fluid-filled canals that control balance. Vestibular dysfunction can exist unilaterally, affecting only one side of the body, or bilaterally, affecting both sides. Vestibular rehabilitation exercises treat dizziness, difficulty with vision with head movement, and issues with balance.

The ultimate goal of vestibular rehabilitation therapy is to reduce vertigo, dizziness, gaze instability, poor balance, and dangerous falls. Approximately 40% of adults over age 40 experience some form of dizziness. Additionally, for patients over 75 years of age, dizziness is the number one reason for visiting a physician. Dizziness is a significant risk factor for falls, and falls are estimated to be the leading cause of serious injury and death in people over 65.

Who can benefit

Patient may call requesting vestibular rehabilitation if they have any of the above symptoms, have seen an ear, nose and throat (ENT) or other physician for these symptoms and been diagnosed with vertigo/benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

Treatment

Vestibular rehabilitation involves a thorough examination with a comprehensive medical screen to review various systems of the human body. Rehabilitation includes recommendations based off the medical screen and interventions that focus on the cervical spine (neck), addressing impairments of the vestibular system and return to normal function.

Includes:

  • Canalith Repositioning: manual (hands on) techniques that involve positioning the head in a certain sequence
  • Habituation Exercises: aimed to reduce dizziness by exposing the vestibular system to movements and positions that bring on symptoms in a progressive fashion
  • Ocular Exercises: training the connection between the eyes and the inner ear
  • Balance Training: restoring the connection between the inner ear it’s affect on balance and motor control

FAQs

How long will I be in therapy?

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It all depends on the severity of the symptoms and how you respond to treatment. Sometimes symptoms can be alleviated within two to three sessions, and other times it can day 8+ weeks of therapy.

Are there medications that can be prescribed to reduce dizziness?

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Medication can be short-term strategy to treat dizziness to help dampen symptoms, but medication can also make it more difficult for the brain to learn to compensate for vestibular dysfunction. For the acute stage of dizziness, medication is sometimes prescribed by a physician to reduce severe symptoms. Speak to your physician about recommended medications based on your symptoms.

Are there exercises I can do to help my dizziness?

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Vestibular exercises should only be done after proper diagnosis and performed as prescribed by a physical therapist. Vestibular disorders are not the same, and not all exercises may be appropriate for care.

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