Should You Try Out Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy for Your Vertigo or Dizziness?
Over 90 million people (42 percent of the American population) experience feelings of dizziness, vertigo, and loss of balance during their lifetime; for many of them, this experience becomes a chronic condition. In the elderly, dizziness is the most common reason that people over seventy five visit a doctor, and for people over 65, falls resulting from a loss of balance are the number one cause of death and serious injury.
Approximately three-fourths of these cases of dizziness and loss of balance are caused by peripheral vestibular disorders that affect the middle and inner ear, such as vestibular neuritis, acoustic neuroma, Ménière’s disease, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and labyrinthitis, perilymphatic fistula. These disorders cause abnormalities in the delicate areas of the inner ear that disrupt our ability to maintain and control our sense of balance. Although most cases of chronic vertigo and dizziness occur in adults, the condition can affect children suffering from it even more, because they are so active that a lack of balance can prevent them from engaging in sports or other activities.
These conditions can be treated with surgery and drugs, but there is another treatment methodology that uses physical therapy to stimulate and retrain the vestibular system and provide relief – Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT). The Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy exercises are individually prescribed for each patient’s symptoms and complaints, but in general they consist of head movements, gait training and eye exercises designed to reduce symptoms and improve stability. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy cites its goals as seeking to improve balance, decrease the experience of dizziness, improve patients’ stability when walking or moving, improve coordination, minimize falls, and reduce anxiety.
VRT has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms for many people suffering from the conditions mentioned above, and for those with other forms of bilateral or unilateral vestibular loss. The effectiveness of VRT in patients suffering from these conditions who did not respond to earlier treatment methodologies has been proven in several clinical trials. It is not as likely to be beneficial if a patient’s symptoms are the result of anxiety or depression, reactions to medications, migraine headaches, transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or low blood pressure.
Because the specific exercises in a regimen of Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy vary according to the patient’s symptoms and conditions, it is not easy to give an overview of them. But are all taught by trained VRT therapists, and often involve movements of the head, eyes, and body that enable your brain and body to retrain themselves and regain control over their equilibrium and balance, compensating more effectively for the incorrect information sent to them from their inner ear. If you have experienced long-term symptoms of dizziness or vertigo, consult a balance specialist and ask for more information. You may also want to contact the Vestibular Disorders Association and take advantage of many of their short publications and resource materials.