Vestibular Rehabilitation

If you are experiencing dizziness, nausea, imbalance, or even vertigo, Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy may be right for you.

Do you get dizzy spells? 

Do you feel like the room is spinning? Or that your head is spinning?

Do you have poor balance?

Dizziness, vertigo (room spinning) and poor balance are all symptoms that you can experience if you have trouble with your ‘balance system’. The medical name for the balance system is the Vestibular System. A big part of this system is a little organ in your inner ear called the Labyrinth

Problems with the labyrinth can produce symptoms of dizziness, vertigo,  poor balance, lightheadedness as well as other issues. These problems can be the result of physical problems with the labyrinth itself, can be due to infections or head/neck injuries like concussion & whiplash.  

Fortunately, the vast majority of problems that cause dizziness, vertigo and poor balance can be effectively treated with rehabilitation. Because we are talking about the balance or Vestibular system we call this Vestibular Rehabilitation.

What is Vestibular Rehabilitation?

Vestibular Rehabilitation is a form of physical therapy that focuses on identifying and treating specific deficits in the balance system. It involves one to one sessions with a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist with specialized training in the management of dizziness, vertigo, and balance.

The exact treatments and exercises involved will depend on your specific symptoms and problems. Our Therapists will perform a wide variety of specialized tests to identify the deficits in your balance system. Once those deficits have been identified, your therapist will draw up a specific rehabilitation plan with you in order to help resolve the issues you are having.

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a symptom in which you feel like the room is spinning or your head is spinning. In the medical sense, the word “vertigo” has nothing to do with heights. Often people describe the uneasy feeling when we get up a height as vertigo, but in medicine, it only refers to the symptom of feeling like the room is spinning or your head is spinning.

Do I have Vertigo?

Vertigo is a symptom (like pain) rather than a diagnosis. If you sometimes get the feeling that the room is spinning when there is no reason to feel that way, you have the symptom of vertigo. The reason you have vertigo has not yet been determined. You will need to be reviewed by a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist with specialized training to diagnose the cause of vertigo.

What is the difference between Vertigo and Dizziness?

People often confuse these symptoms and they can be difficult to tell apart. Dizziness is when you feel like you are falling to one side or feel ‘woozy’. Vertigo is when it feels like the room is spinning or your head is spinning.

Along with both dizziness and vertigo, you may feel lightheaded as well. This is when your energy feels low like you might faint. Another feeling people often describe is that they feel like they have poor balance and they are unsteady on their feet. We call that feeling imbalance.

What causes Vertigo?

Vertigo can be a symptom of a variety of diseases. These are the most common:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) or Benign Positional Vertigo
  • Vestibular Hypofunction
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Vestibular Neuritis or Vestibular Neuronitis
  • Ménière’s Disease
  • Head injury, concussion or ‘central vertigo’
  • Vascular Problems

What causes Dizziness?

Again, dizziness is a symptom that can be a feature of a variety of problems. Sometimes an infection of the inner ear (labyrinth) earlier in life can result in faulty information coming from that organ and produce dizziness. Sometimes dizziness can be a symptom of a neck related problem. Our Vestibular Therapists will perform a detailed assessment to determine the cause of the dizziness.

Should I see my Doctor?

It is often helpful if you have seen your Doctor about your dizziness prior to your appointment but it is not necessary to do so. If our Therapists find anything during your assessment that they feel warrants further investigation they will refer you to other health professionals and communicate with your Family Physician. However, if you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek emergency medical assessment:

  • Sudden onset of severe headache
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Numbness or paralysis of arms or legs
  • Fainting
  • Double vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion or slurred speech
  • Stumbling or difficulty walking
  • Ongoing vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Sudden onset of hearing loss
  • Facial numbness or weakness

What causes Poor Balance?

Poor balance or imbalance is often caused by problems with the labyrinth. That’s the little balance organ in your inner ear that we discussed earlier. Sometimes we get infections or damage to one of those balance organs and it throws off our balance calibration. Often, when we are young and strong we can compensate for that miscalibration so our balance is still pretty good. 

Unfortunately, as we age our muscles get weaker and our reflexes are slower. That means the problems with the balance organ (labyrinth) can’t be compensated for. So we start to see the balance decline as we age. This starts a vicious cycle whereby the person becomes less active due to the worsening balance. That only serves to let the muscles get weaker and the reflexes even slower.

Vestibular Rehabilitation addresses these problems on both fronts. We can often improve the performance of the little balance organ by doing special exercises to challenge that system. We can also prescribe specific strengthening and balance reflex exercises. Because it tackles the symptoms and the root cause, Vestibular Rehabilitation has been proven to be extremely effective in improving balance in the vast majority of cases.

What now?

If anything mentioned above rings a bell you will probably benefit from an assessment by a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist trained in Vestibular Rehabilitation. We can liaise with your Family Physician and help organize a referral to a specialist if required.

You do not need a referral from your Family Doctor to be assessed by a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist. If you would like to book an assessment please go ahead and click the link below. If you would like more information, please give us a call or fill in the contact form below.