Vestibular rehabilitation: stopping the dizziness, improving your balance

Jesse Schulz

Jesse Schulz, PT, DPT, Ripon Medical Center

To maintain your balance, your brain processes information that it receives from your inner ear, eyes and body. Your inner ear (i.e. your vestibular system) sends information to the brain to help your eyes stay focused on something while turning your head and feel if you are being tilted or moving or if the world is moving. These are very important functions to help you to put away a dish in a cupboard, wash your hair in the shower, walk while looking at products on a grocery store shelf, and maintain your balance after you stand up from sitting just for a few examples. 

Did you know that having a vestibular or inner ear problem could cause you to lose sleep or have a poorer quality of sleep? And having a poorer quality of sleep by itself is a risk factor for falling? Another interesting fact about having poor balance is that it will cause you to focus on safety while you are moving which can contribute to mental fog, memory loss and multi-tasking difficulty. 

Typical symptoms that may indicate you could benefit from vestibular therapy:

  • Motion sensitivity
  • Dizziness or vertigo when moving around in your bed and/or washing your hair
  • Decreased stability or balance with walking, or gaining your balance when you first stand up after sitting
  • Difficulties with seeing clearly when you are moving

Causes

There are several risk factors that we know of that we cannot change for certain vestibular disorders.  Being older or being a female will increase your risk of having certain vestibular disorders. Having sleep apnea, osteoporosis, genetics, head trauma, recent stomach or respiratory infections, and being to the dentist also can increase the likelihood of having a vestibular concern. There are some people that develop a vestibular disorder that do not have any risk factors. 

Treatments

Each vestibular patient is thoroughly evaluated to try to best identify what the cause of their vestibular problem is and how best to treat it. Your therapist may work with you on balance, repositioning very small crystals in your inner ear, eye exercises, and/or teach you how to compensate for reflex pathways that have become weak and may not be working as quickly as they used to be. 

Contact your health care provider to ask for a referral for vestibular rehabilitation at Sports & Spine at Ripon Medical Center.

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