VESTIBULAR REHABILITATION

A comprehensive approach addressing all systems

An estimated 90 million Americans (42% of the current population) experience dizziness at least once in their lifetime. Some patients develop permanent balance deficits with subsequent functional limitations.

For patients over 75 years of age, dizziness is the number one reason for visiting a physician, and dizziness is a significant risk factor for falls in elderly individuals. Some estimates state that as many of half of all cases of dizziness are due to vestibular disorders. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that those with symptomatic vestibular dysfunction have a 12-fold increase in the odds of falling.

Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is a form of physical therapy that uses specialized exercises that result in gaze and gait stabilization. Some of the exercise and activities may at first cause an increase in symptoms as the body and brain attempt to sort out the new pattern of movements. Because of this, people sometimes give up on VRT, thinking it is making their vestibular disorder worse. However, in most cases balance improves over time if the exercises are correctly and faithfully performed. Muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue will diminish, and symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, and nausea will decrease or disappear. Many times, VRT is so successful that no other treatment is required.

Goals

By improving vestibular function and promoting mechanisms of central adaptation and compensation, VRT aims to do the following:

  • Improve balance
  • Minimize falls
  • Decrease subjective sensations of dizziness
  • Improve stability during locomotion
  • Reduce overdependency on visual and somatosensory inputs
  • Improve neuromuscular coordination
  • Decrease anxiety and somatization due to vestibular disorientation

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