Remember spinning around in circles when you were little, just to feel dizzy and disoriented? Many of us remember feeling that way as a child — but don’t expect to feel that way as adults. Yet thousands of Americans suffer from chronic dizziness and balance problems. According to physicians, chronic dizziness is the second most common complaint they see after lower back pain.
A vestibular rehab program can offer relief to those of you who struggle with chronic dizziness and balance problems. These symptoms are often caused by problems in the vestibular, or balance center, of the ear.
A vestibular disorder is a disturbance that causes you to feel unsteady, giddy, woozy, or have a sensation of movement, spinning or floating. Symptoms can range from mild, lasting only minutes, to severe, resulting in total disability. Your vestibular system interacts with many other parts of the nervous system and symptoms can also include problems with vision, muscles, thinking and memory.
Some of the more common vestibular disorders are:
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- head trauma
- Meniere’s disease
· multiple sclerosis
- perilymph fistula
- stroke and transient ischemic attacks
- vestibular neuritis
People with vestibular disorders often report fatigue and inability to concentrate as well as difficulty reading and speaking when tired. For some, these symptoms are constant and disabling and can be accompanied by irritability, loss of self-esteem and depression. Nearly 8 million patients are seen by physicians for evaluation and treatment of vestibular disorders each year.
Vestibular rehab is used to retrain your brain to work around, and compensate for, an inner ear deficit. A specially trained physical therapist will evaluate you and develop an individualized program of visual motor control and adaptation exercises.
The treatment program includes:
- Vestibular habituation exercises: exercises designed to provide small, controlled and repeated movements that provoke dizziness and unsteadiness. This is done deliberately to desensitize the balance system and improve the fine-tuning involved in long-term compensation.
- Balance retraining exercises: the exercise program is designed to make a person steadier during walking and standing through improvements in coordination of muscle responses and organization of sensory information (i.e., vision, balance and proprioception).
- Depending on your diagnosis, you will be seen for therapy anywhere from one to two times a week, for two to six weeks.
A physicians’ referral is required for vestibular rehab. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, ask your doctor for a referral. Vestibular rehab is covered by most insurance.