Physical therapy can be used to treat a range of diseases, including dysfunctions of the vestibular system (the inner ear, eyes, and brain), which present with symptoms like dizziness. Vestibular rehabilitation physical therapists can treat Vertigo, the most common vestibular dysfunction, with more than 90% success. Vertigo occurs in 20%-30% of the general population so this is a common issue.
The Vestibular system
The vestibular organs of the inner ear provide the brain with information about changes in head movement. If the vestibular system is not functioning properly, dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, and spatial disorientation can occur.
- Semicircular canals – anterior, posterior, and horizontal canals respond to angular position changes of the head
- Otoliths – lined with hair particles that have spontaneous firing rates that respond to gravitational orientation changes
- Vestibular nerve – last link in the pathway ascending and descending into the vestibular nuclei
- Vestibular nucleus – located in the brain stem, provides information to the brain
- Labyrinthe and cochlea – help the inner ear maintain equilibrium for the body
- Feeling “off-balance”
- Blurred vision
- Spinning sensations
- Nausea resulting from feeling as if the world around you is moving
- Unexplained loss of balance with position changes and during functional activities
Vestibular rehab can include learning repositioning maneuvers designed to eliminate the occurrence of vertigo with position changes, balance training to assist in preventing falls during daily activities, and stretching and strengthening exercises designed to improve balance during standing and walking.