What Is The Vestibular System?
Our balance is maintained by three systems:
- Our vision
- Inner ear
- Sensory system or touch to let us know our position in relation to our surroundings
The vestibular system helps us detect changes in head movements or body position to maintain balance. If the vestibular system is not functioning properly, dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, spatial disorientation, and other symptoms can result.
What Causes Vestibular Disorders?
- Head Trauma (car accidents, falls, impact sports)
- Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Ear Infections
- Stroke and brain injury
- Meniere's Disease
What Is Vestibular Physical Therapy?
A qualified and licensed Physical Therapist will first perform a thorough evaluation. This includes special tests as well as observing posture, balance, movement, and compensatory strategies.
Using the results of the evaluation, the therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that may include specific head and body motions, eye movement and exercises in order to strengthen muscles and increase tolerance for certain stimuli.
Some of the exercises and activities may cause an increase in symptoms at first, as the body and brain attempt to sort out the new pattern of movements. But with time and consistent work, the coordination of signals from the eyes, inner ear and sensory system will occur.
Often new patterns of movement strategies are used to compensate for the change in the vestibular/ inner ear function. People begin to avoid head movements that are apt to create symptoms of dizziness and nausea. For example, individuals may limit turning their head while walking to avoid symptoms.
Unfortunately, these adaptations can result in headache, muscle stiffness, general fatigue, and inability to retrain the brain to adjust to the vestibular problem, hence making the symptoms worse.
Vestibular Physical Therapy retrains the brain to recognize and process signals from the vestibular system to develop normal responses to movement and alleviate symptoms. This involves desensitizing the system through various movements and positions that may provoke symptoms.
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