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Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

An Exercise Prescription for Dizziness 

Beth Jennings, PT, MPT

If you've ever had a bout of dizziness, you might think that exercise would be the last thing you want to do. A treatment program called vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) uses exercises or activities geared specifically to your problem to help you recover.

VRT is Not for Just Any Dizziness

If your dizziness is related to your vestibular system (your inner ear) or brain, and not from things like blood sugar, medication side effects, or dehydration, then VRT may help you. 

Some examples of diagnoses that benefit from VRT:

  • Vestibular neuronitis
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Head injury
  • BPPV
  • Vestibular hypofunction
  • Brain tumor or brain surgery
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Psychogenic vertigo

There are many types of dizziness, so talk with your physician or one of our physical therapists (PTs) at FYZICAL - Forest Grove to learn if you could benefit from VRT.

Goals of VRT

1.)  Keep vision clear

2.)  Improve dizziness symptoms

3.)  Enhance stability on your feet

4.)  Improve activities of daily living

Keeping Vision Clear

Vision is important for balance. Closing your eyes or being in the dark is more challenging. But did you know that the inner ears and eyes work together to keep your vision clear when you are moving, or the environment is moving?

Someone with an inner ear disorder may not like activities like shopping in a busy store, turning their head quickly, scrolling on a computer, watching TV, or riding in a car. It's the movement that stirs the symptoms of dizziness.

 

VRT exercises could involve focusing on a word or object while moving your head or balancing in front of a gently swaying curtain. The type and intensity of exercise would be designed specifically for you.

Improving Dizziness

Dizziness can be miserable, and you learn very quickly which movements make it worse. You might stop turning your head when you walk or you learn to do everything slowly. Although this is reasonable to do initially, this coping strategy can also slow your brain's ability to improve your dizziness.

Experiencing some dizziness is necessary for your brain to learn and recover. Getting the right intensity is where a specialist like a FYZICAL -Forest Grove PT is required.

Exercises in this category will likely look like everyday movements -- turning your head, reaching to the floor, turning around, or rolling over in bed -- but at a speed that produces some challenge to the brain in the form of symptoms.  We can even use our virtual reality system, called Virtualis VR, to work on this.

Improving stability

In the blog post, Using Science to Improve Your Balance, I reviewed the three body systems that help us stay on our feet — vision, inner ear, and touch/position sensors. To improve balance, we must challenge each of these systems so you are not relying too heavily on just one.

Exercises in this category may include balancing on an unstable surface such as a pillow or a cushion, standing with your eyes closed, or looking from target to target while walking. And we also have Solo Step to keep you safe while challenging you.

Improve Activities of Daily Living

The ultimate goal for VRT is to get you back to the activities of everyday life. This might be taking a shower without concern of a fall or getting back to your weekly soccer match. No matter your level, VRT can be customized to you.

How Long Does Recovery Take?

There's no easy answer, but expect weeks to months to improve. Just like you wouldn't expect to be fit after one visit to the gym, VRT requires a commitment to regular practice.

Let us know if you want to learn more about how VRT might help you? We'd love to talk to you about it and show off our Balance Center.



Beth Jennings, PT, MPT is a freelance writer and a physical therapist.

Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

References:

Han BI, Song HS, Kim JS. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy: review of indications, mechanisms, and key exercises. J Clin Neurol. 2011;7(4):184-196.

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