Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy
What is the Vestibular System?
The first sensory system to fully develop by six months after conception is the vestibular system, which controls the sense of movement and balance. This system is the sensory system considered to have the most important influence on the other sensory systems and on the ability to function in everyday life. Directly or indirectly, the vestibular system influences nearly everything we do. It is the unifying system in our brain that modifies and coordinates information received from other sensory systems such as the eyes and joint and muscle receptors (proprioceptors). When these systems are not functioning well, individuals may experience episodes of spinning (vertigo), light-headedness, or poor balance (disequilibrium). Symptoms may also include dizziness, blurry vision, trouble focusing, motion sensitivity, nausea, poor concentration, muscle guarding/restriction of movement, decreased activity levels or social interaction, anxiety and depression.
How do problems Occur?
Vestibular disorders can come from pathologies in any area of this complex system. They can be insidious or due to factors such as trauma (motor vehicle accidents, falls, contact sports, blows to the head), infections, aging, medications, brain-related problems, or secondary to other diseases or injuries.
What is Vestibular Rehabilitation?
Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a proven, research based branch of physiotherapy which involves the prescription of specific exercises used to maximize the brain’s compensation for vestibular pathology, or positioning maneuvers to correct mechanical dysfunctions in the inner ear (vestibular apparatus). Results are often dramatic in these individuals.
What to Expect During Assessment and Treatment?
Vestibular assessment is extensive and includes a physical examination of eye movements (oculomotor and vestibularo-cular reflex) through the use of frenzel goggles, evaluation of cerebellar function (region of brain involved in motor control), posture and gait (walking) function. Treatment can involve a combination of static and dynamic balance retraining, gaze stabilization, training for motion sensitivity and canalith repositioning maneuvers. Patients with balance difficulties from orthopedic or central disorders or vision changes affecting their equilibrium can also benefit from the balance component of VRT.