Dizziness can be brought on by problems within the vestibular system, which is a region of the inner ear that is responsible for helping us maintain balance. This section of the inner ear detects changes in body movement and head position, and it thereby assists us in staying stable.
That is, when it is functioning properly.
Unfortunately, when the vestibular system is malfunctioning, a person can experience lightheadedness, falls, dizziness, vertigo (or a feeling of “spinning”), neck tightness, headaches, loss of balance, or a general feeling of haziness.
Fortunately, vestibular therapy can help reduce or eliminate a patient’s issues with balance and dizziness.
How Common Are Balance Problems?
According to a recent study of balance and vestibular function, as many as 35 percent of adults aged 40 years or older in the United States – that is, approximately 69 million Americans – have experienced some form of vestibular dysfunction.
It is also suspected that many cases go unreported due to difficulties diagnosing these elusive disorders.
What Causes Balance Problems?
Several things can cause vestibular dysfunction. One is peripheral vestibular disorder, which is a dysfunction of the balance organs of the inner ear. Another is a central vestibular disorder, which is a dysfunction in the central nervous system whereby the brain has issues processing spatial information.
An example of peripheral vestibular disorder is Meniere’s disease, which is marked by an increase in pressure that results in vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, and tinnitus. This disorder can also cause migraine headaches.
Central vestibular disorders can be due to stroke, trauma to the brain, or multiple sclerosis (MS).
How Vestibular Therapy Can Help
Luckily, dizziness is usually not a life-threatening problem; in most cases, the aforementioned conditions respond well to vestibular rehabilitation programs. These exercise-based therapies boost the body’s ability to maintain its natural balance.
By evaluating your unique condition, a vestibular rehabilitation therapist can design a specialized program that addresses your individual needs. Prior to crafting a treatment plan, your physical therapist will examine your balance, leg strength, flexibility, gait (how you walk), and neck mobility, and they will conduct an inner ear exam.
Oftentimes, balance training is employed in vestibular therapy. This process limits visual and sensory balance cues to prompt the vestibular system to work more efficiently and independently.
Deep within the labyrinth of the inner ear canals are tiny calcium carbonate crystals called otoconia. These crystals can become dislodged, which can lead to benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
But this can be treated relatively easily by a certified physical therapist. Repositioning treatment harnesses unique head maneuvers to relocate these crystals in such a way as to reduce or eliminate dizziness.
Can Physical Therapy Prevent Falling?
Vestibular therapy is also effective for preventing future falls. One successful method is gaze stabilization exercise, which can help train the eyes to maintain focus while the head moves.
This works by helping the eye, inner ear, and brain to recalibrate after damage has occurred to the inner ear. Many exercises like this require the eyes to focus on one area while the head is turned. Therapies such as this can help patients prevent falling due to vertigo or dizziness.
Sometimes, the aforementioned exercises will be used in tandem with a presurgery or postsurgery plan. However, the exercises alone are usually enough to eradicate the problem, thus reducing dizziness, the risk of falls, and neck pain – all while improving overall physical fitness.
Contact a Physical Therapist in Ohio
An experienced physical therapist will show you how to do vestibular exercises on your own, so that you may regain and retain your balance. Don’t let a balance disorder get the better of you – the vestibular rehabilitation therapists at Suburban Physical Therapy offer a host of techniques that’ll have you feeling confident on your feet in no time.
For more information or to schedule your appointment with a caring physical therapist, call our Brecksville office at (440) 746-1730 or our Twinsburg office at (330) 963-2920. You can also fill out our simple online appointment request form to get started. We look forward to showing you how to lessen or eliminate your balance issues so you can enjoy life to the full