Vestibular disorders can diminish quality of life, impact all aspects of daily living, and contribute to emotional problems such as anxiety and depression. Evidence has shown that vestibular rehabilitation with physical therapy can be effective in improving many symptoms related to vestibular disorders.
WHAT IS THE VESTIBULAR SYSTEM?
The vestibular system is the sensory system, whose components are located within the inner ear, providing a sense of balance and spatial orientation, coordinating movement and balance. Sensory information about the body's motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation are detected by this system, and the impulses are sent to and interpreted by the brain. When this system is not functioning well, patients may experience problems with vertigo, dizziness, visual disturbance, and/or imbalance. These are the problems that physical therapy can address. Other problems may also arise that are secondary to vestibular disorders, such as nausea and/or vomiting, reduced ability to focus or concentrate, and fatigue.
WHAT IS VESTIBULAR REHABILITATION?
Vestibular rehabilitation (VR), or vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a specialized form of therapy intended to alleviate both the primary and secondary problems caused by vestibular disorders. It is an exercise-based program primarily designed to reduce vertigo and dizziness, gaze instability, and/or imbalance and falls.
TREATMENT FOR VESTIBULAR DISORDERS:
The treatment of a patient with an inner ear disorder focuses on determining a specific plan based on the individuals diagnosis and symptoms. A Brown-Rogers therapist will thoroughly evaluate each patient and create and individualized plan based upon evaluation findings.
Treatment methods may include the following:
Gaze Stabilization Exercises:
Because the information the brain is receiving from the vestibular system has been changed, adaptation exercise may be used in order to help the brain adapt to new signaling from the affected vestibular system. Visual fixation on a target during head movement is a gaze stabilization exercise to assist in this retraining.
Balance Retraining Exercises:
When the vestibular system has been affected, balance and walking will be affected, and balance training is also indicated. Balance retraining involves exercises designed to improve coordination of muscular responses as well as the organization of sensory information (eye sight, vestibular system) for balance control. A home program is important and is monitored and modified as needed by the physical therapist.
In addition to the home program, patients are seen by the physical therapist one to two times each week for an average of four to six weeks.
Canal Repositioning Maneuvers:
Sometimes, canal repositioning maneuvers are indicated. During the evaluation it will be determined in what canal the debris lies. Once the physical therapist has determined this, a canal repositioning maneuver will be used to dislodge or reposition the debris within the affected canal.