How Does the Vestibular System Work?
The vestibular system is defined by a mutually dependent relationship between the inner ear and brain that allows humans to maintain postural stability. The inner ear portion of your vestibular system is the sensory receptor that relays information about your body and head position back to your brain. The brain, in turn, decodes the information provided by the inner ear and sends signals out to the muscles of the body to maintain upright head and trunk postures, thereby preventing falls. Vestibular therapy exercises and rehabilitation are essential for decreasing the symptoms of many issues.
How do I know Vestibular Rehabilitation is right for me?
Most often people will complain of motion sickness, intolerance to standing at high altitudes (i.e. on a ladder), vertigo, nausea, inability to focus the eyes to read, imbalance, and disequilibrium. Vestibular Rehabilitation is aimed at decreasing the frequency and severity of the symptoms listed through exercises that focus on normalizing eye movements and improving balance, gait, and posture. Frequently, symptoms intensify with head movements, lying flat, riding in a car, and walking. Head trauma, Meniere's disease, vestibular/labyrinth neuritis, migraine headaches, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), and strokes are common causes of vestibular weakness and dysfunction.
What can I expect with the Hetrick Center Vestibular Therapy?
At The Hetrick Center, the rehabilitation process begins with an individual evaluation designed to pinpoint the source of the vestibular problem. An examination includes a thorough review of past medical history and current symptoms. Testing of the eyes' ability to focus, move, and maintain gaze will also be completed as the vestibular system is closely related to the function of the eyes. Posture, gait, and balance will also be examined in order to get a clear picture of the dysfunction. It is common for the severity of vertigo, imbalance and related symptoms to get worse before they get better and it is important to be dedicated to the treatment process.
Treatment for vertigo is performed by a licensed Physical Therapist and will include an array of flexibility exercises for the neck, strengthening of the postural, arm and neck muscles, and activities that improve balance and gait. Specialized exercises for the eyes will also be used to regain focus, to decrease motion sickness, and to get rid of vertiginous symptoms. Vestibular rehabilitation is based strongly on a home exercise program that is provided within the first two weeks of treatment. Through dedicated patient participation in the home exercise program, vestibular symptoms decrease and allow more normal function with daily and work activities. Scheduled follow-up appointments with your Physical Therapist will be completed in order to modify the home exercise program allowing maximal patient benefit and personalized care.