What is Vestibular Physiotherapy?
Vestibular physiotherapists are therapists who have taken advanced post-graduate training in the assessment and treatment of vestibular and related disorders. Your brain has a few ways of knowing where your body is in space. The vestibular system is the part of the inner ear that responds to gravity and head movements. This, plus information from your eyes and neck muscles and other structures let your brain calculate what your head and body is doing. This requires smooth coordination of all 3 elements – neck, inner ear, and eyes – which is a very complex task!
This system can become dysfunctional for a lot of reasons. Often there is no direct cause (idiopathic). Other causes include trauma (e.g. concussion), age-related degeneration, drug toxicity, infection, neoplasms, and more.
At your first appointment, your vestibular physiotherapist will use an array of assessment techniques and tools to determine which component(s) of your visual, vestibular, and cervical (neck) systems are contributing to your dizziness and/or vertigo. They will then work with you to come up with a treatment plan that will address the root causes of your symptoms. The plan usually includes some at-home exercises for your neck, eyes, and/or inner ear that are designed to permanently improve and in many cases completely resolve your symptoms. It usually also includes some form of in-clinic treatment meant to address the cause of your symptoms. This can range from “canalith repositioning maneuvers” to manual therapy, dry needling, and more.
Dizziness, Vertigo, Balance, and Post-Concussion Syndrome
Dizziness, vertigo, and balance dysfunction are very common issues that vestibular physiotherapy can help with. About 35% of all people over 40 will experience some form of dizziness or vertigo, with this number rising to 75% of people over age 75. The symptoms of dizziness and vertigo can be debilitating and may include lightheadedness, swaying, disorientation, a feeling that the room is spinning, nausea and/or vomiting, headache, feeling off-balance, feeling just “off”, and more. People might get dizzy when rolling over in bed, when standing up or lying down, or when in busy or crowded environments. While the symptoms alone are unpleasant enough, there are real risks for people living with chronic dizziness and vertigo: the balance issues caused by vestibular dysfunction cause an 800% increased chance of falling with the potential for injury. This does not take into account the ongoing decrease in quality of life as dizziness/vertigo may restrict the kinds of activities people can participate in.
Unfortunately, vertigo and dizziness are frequently not adequately managed. Medications can mask some of the symptoms, but they do not usually address the underlying causes for your dizziness.
The good news is that most kinds of dizziness and vertigo are VERY treatable with vestibular physiotherapy! In fact, the most common form of vertigo – Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV, estimated to be the cause of 50% of all vertigo in older adults – can often be resolved completely with 1-2 simple treatments. Most other forms of dizziness and vertigo also respond well to vestibular physiotherapy, but may require a longer course of treatment.
Prairie Therapy Vestibular Physiotherapists
Click on a photo to meet our team member!