Dizziness & Vestibular Rehabilitation
Vestibular rehabilitation describes the therapies used to treat dysfunction of the vestibular system.
Your vestibular system is a sensory system, located in the inner ear, It is responsible for sending the brain information about body motion, body position, and how the body exists in different environments.
Vestibular systems affect motor functions to maintain balance, stabilize head and body during movement, and maintain posture.
Dizziness, vertigo and disequilibrium are common symptoms in most vestibular disorders. Although dizziness, vertigo and disequilibrium can be linked by a common cause, they have different meanings.
These descriptions can help professionals understand your symptoms.
- Dizziness is a sensation of light-headedness, faintness, or unsteadiness.
- Vertigo has a rotational, spinning component. Individuals will feel as though the room around them is spinning or they are spinning (when standing still.)
- Disequilibrium simply means unsteadiness, imbalance, or loss of equilibrium (inability to determine true body position, motion, or location of surroundings).
These symptoms can also be indicators for cardiovascular, neurological, metabolic, vision, and psychological problems.
Because there are many possible causes of dizziness, getting a correct diagnosis can be a long process.
The body maintains balance with sensory information from three systems:
- Proprioception (touch sensors in the feet, trunk, and spine.)
- Vestibular system (inner ear.)
Information from these three systems is combined and processed by the brain stem.
Instructions are sent to the eyes to maintain steady vision and to muscles to maintain body posture and balance.
A functioning vestibular system provides reliable information about where the body exists and how it interacts with it’s surroundings.
Normally, the vestibular system helps decide what is real and what is incorrect. For example, If you are sitting in a car at a railroad crossing, watching a passing train could cause you to feel like your vehicle is drifting or moving. Or if you were walking from hardwood floor to a thick carpet you may experience a sensation of floating. After the initial “weird” feeling, your vestibular system uses sensory information to confirm you are NOT drifting or floating.
When the vestibular system malfunctions, it can’t resolve these conflicting messages. This results in dizziness, vertigo, and/or disequilibrium. Using our example situations with vestibular dysfunction, you would continue feeling your vehicle drifting with the passing train, and you may lose balance or stumble when walking on the fluffy carpet.
Some Vestibular Problems
Vestibular dysfunction is commonly caused by head injury, aging, and/or viral infection.
Other illnesses, genetic factors, and environmental factors may contribute to these problems as well.
Below listed are some of the most common causes of dizziness due to vestibular problems;
- An acoustic neuroma; is a benign tumor on the a nerve of the inner ear.
- Autoimmune inner ear disease; when malfunctioning immune system harms the cells of the body that affect the ear.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV);loose debris which collect at a part of the inner ear.
- Cervicogenic dizziness; is disequilibrium and disorientation in patients with neck problems.
- Cholesteatoma; a skin growth in the middle ear.
- enlarged vestibular aqueduct;
- Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis; are inflammations caused by a viral infection.
- Mal de débarquement; sensation of rocking or movement that persists sea or other travel.
- Ménière’s disease
- Middle ear pressure changes; swelling of the Eustachian tube
- Migraine associated vertigo (MAV); head pain with symptoms such as dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, tinnitus, imbalance, and spatial disorientation.
- Otitis media; is a bacterial infection of the middle ear.
- Otosclerosis; is an abnormal growth of bone of the middle ear.
- Ototoxicity; is caused by exposure to certain drugs or chemicals.
- Perilymph fistula;, caused by injury, is a tear or defect in the oval or round window.
- Superior semicircular canal dehiscence; is an opening in the bone within the inner ear.
- Secondary endolymphatic hydrops; abnormalities in quantity, composition, or pressure of the ear fluid.
- Vascular compression of the vestibular nerve; is an irritation of the vestibulo-cochlear nerve.
Other (non-vestibular) Reasons for Dizziness
Don’t fret! Dizziness is a symptom of many different conditions and situations NOT related to vestibular dysfunction.
Some Non-vestibular causes of dizziness are listed below.
- Carotid sinus reflex
- Defective heart valve
- Severe degenerative arthritis
- Heart attack
- Certain medications
- Nervous-system disorders
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Stress, anxiety, tension, or fatigue
- Vasovagal syndrome
- Vision disturbances
Treatment prescribed for vestibular disorders depends upon symptoms, medical history and general health.
A physical examination by a qualified health professional is a good first step to understanding your dizziness.
A physiotherapist trained in vestibular rehab and assessment can help determine causes and treatment options,
which can include:
If findings indicate vestibular dysfunction, your health professional team may also recommend:
Careful evaluation, including a complete medical history noting all potential causes of dizziness, is essential to correct diagnosis and treatment.
Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing dizziness consistently.
Information on this page is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.