Vestibular Disorders

Vestibular disorders, or feelings of severe dizziness or spinning, are frightening and can often lead to injury or avoiding activities you love. Any prolonged feeling of unsteadiness is worthy of a consultation or appointment.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a vestibular disorder typically start suddenly. Some patients describe the feeling as the world spinning around them or feel there is a spinning in their head. Patient may feel these symptoms when quickly changing the position of their head, such as sitting up from bed. Other symptoms include hearing or vision changes and feeling off balance or unsteady.

Causes

The vestibular system is comprised of a small, but complex unit inside each ear that attaches to different structures in your head, including the eyes, brain, and muscles. The purpose of the system is to help maintain balance and equilibrium with movement and head turning. A common example of a vestibular disorder is benign paroxysmal peripheral vertigo (also known as BPPV), which occurs when the crystals inside of the ear become dislodged into one of the canals.

Other more common causes of vestibular disorders include an ear infection, a viral infection such as chickenpox that causes vestibular neuritis, or Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is a disorder that involves sudden onsets of vestibular systems, including vertigo, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and loss of hearing. Typically the reason for Meniere’s disease is excessive fluid in the ear.

Diagnosis

Your therapist at Specialized Physical Therapy will perform a thorough evaluation of your vestibular symptoms, analyzing your eye movements with various head turns and balance over varied surfaces. Your therapist will ask you questions such as when the symptoms started, what led up to the symptoms, and if you have had any treatment for your episodes. Through a comprehensive examination, your therapist will be able to determine which type of treatment will be most successful in relieving your symptoms.

Treatment and Exercises

The first goal of therapy will be to attack the cause of the symptoms. For example, if the diagnosis is BPPV, your physical therapist will perform at maneuver the crystals into their appropriate positions. Once the body acclimates to the newly and appropriately positioned crystals, new exercises will be added. The newer exercises will focus on desensitizing the vestibular system to head movements and challenging balance activities to get you back to living your life symptom free.

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