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Overview

What is vestibular Physiotherapy/rehabilitation?

Vestibular rehabilitation is an exercise-based program, designed by a specialty-trained vestibular physiotherapist, to improve balance and reduce problems related to dizziness.

How is dizziness defined?

Dizziness can be described as:

  • Feelings of unsteadiness
  • Sensations of moving
  • Spinning
  • Light-Headedness
  • Whirling (sensations known as vertigo)
  • Wooziness (swimming feeling in the head)
  • Feelings of passing out
  • Floating
  • Swaying
  • Tilting

These feelings or sensations can occur when you are in one position or standing still, lying down, turning in bed or changing positions. The symptoms can be constant or episodic in nature, only lasting seconds, minutes or hours.

What causes dizziness?

Dizziness is generally not always very serious but is often a sign of a mechanical problem. Dizziness can be due to an inner ear disorder, a side effect of medications, a sign of neck dysfunction, or it can be due to a more serious problem such as a brain or a heart problem.

Who benefits from vestibular rehabilitation?

Patients typically referred for vestibular physiotherapy are those diagnosed with dizziness, imbalance, vertigo, Meniere’s syndrome, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), neck-related dizziness, and migraines.

Common symptoms that can be helped with vestibular physiotherapy include:

  • Generalized “dizziness, wooziness and foggy head” feelings
  • Vertigo/spinning
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or blurry vision with head movements
  • Neck tightness, stiffness, and/or pain
  • Imbalance or the need to hold onto objects when walking
  • Frequent falls

The physiotherapist will evaluate your symptoms and review your medical history. Your assessment will include all or part of the following areas:

  • Balance and/or leg strength/flexibility
  • Gait (how you walk)
  • Nerve examination
  • Visual stability and mobility
  • Neck mobility and neck and arm strength
  • Positional testing, including an inner ear exam

Based on the findings, a plan of care is developed. The goal of your treatment plan is to improve any deficits that were identified. This, in turn, will improve your ability to function in activities of everyday living, reduce your risk for falling and ultimately, improve your quality of life.

How successful is vestibular rehabilitation therapy?

Vestibular physiotherapy is very successful in treating the general range of symptoms as mentioned above.

What are the types of exercises I will learn in a vestibular physiotherapy program?

Examples of exercises you might learn include:

  • Special Maneuver to correct BPPV.
  • Postural training
  • Vision stability training
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Balance retraining
  • Neck mobility/stretching exercises
  • General fitness exercises
  • Ergonomic training (This advice is given so that workplace furnishings can be adjusted to improve a person’s posture and decrease any discomforts.)

Your exercise program is developed by identifying your deficits. For example, if your symptoms have been linked to an inner ear problem, you will also learn how to do some self-treatment exercises. Continuing an exercise plan at home can help prevent and/or treat new dizziness and balance episodes.

How long is a typical vestibular rehabilitation program?

Some patients may be seen for only 1 to 2 sessions other patients are typically seen 1 to 2 times each week for 6 to 8 weeks, but this varies based on the patient’s diagnosis, the severity of symptoms, and response to therapy. other patients may need continued treatment for a few months.

Recovery

What type of recovery/outcome can I expect from vestibular physiotherapy?

Expected vestibular physiotherapy outcomes include:

  • Improved balance
  • A decrease in dizziness symptoms
  • Improved ability to stabilize vision/gaze
  • Increased body strength
  • Return to the prior level of movement/function
  • Increase in confidence in ability to maintain balance
  • Improved neck motion, reduced symptoms
  • Decreased risk of falling