The vestibular system of the inner ear is made of five sensory organs.
The purpose of the vestibular system is to monitor the position and motion of your head in space. The semi-circular canals are responsible for detecting rotation and angular acceleration, for example when you nod or shake your head. The otolith organs are responsible for detecting motion along a line, for example when your car stops suddenly, or when you lean to one side.
The inner ear structures send signals into areas of the brain, which subsequently are involved in co-ordinating movements of your eyes and your head, and in maintaining balance.
There are a variety of symptoms associated with disorders of the vestibular system. These include:
• vertigo (an illusion of motion);
• blurred vision;
• impaired balance;
• unsteady walking;
• reduced concentration; and
• increased fatigue.
These types of symptoms may subsequently lead to :
• loss of confidence
• frequent falls,
• work-related issues,
• difficulties with driving,
• depression and feelings of significant anxiety and fear.
Commonly people with suspected disorders of the vestibular system are referred for diagnostic testing (also known as vestibular function testing). This type of testing can help to diagnose the cause of your specific vestibular problem.
Vestibular Rehabilitation – Why is therapy needed?
If the brain cannot rely on the information it receives from the vestibular system, a person’s ability to maintain posture and co-ordinate balance can become overly dependent on vision or on the information received from the muscles and joints (proprioception).
This can lead to developing new patterns of movement to compensate for the change and to avoid head movements that are apt to create symptoms of dizziness and nausea.
For example, a person might swivel the entire body rather than just the head in turning to look at something, or might always look down at the floor to avoid what appears as a confusing swirl of activity.
Unfortunately, these types of adaptation can result in headache, neck pain, muscle stiffness, general fatigue, and a decrease in the ability to retrain the brain to adjust to the vestibular problem, hence making the symptoms much worse.
The goal of Vestibular physiotherapy rehabilitation iat Clifton Hill Physiotherapy s to retrain the brain to recognize and process signals from the vestibular system in coordination with information from vision and proprioception. This often involves desensitizing the balance system to movements that provoke symptoms; also known as habituation training.
What happens during vestibular therapy at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy?
One of our physiotherapist trained in vestibular rehabilitation will first perform a thorough assessment of the 3 sensory components of balance ie visual, vestibular, proprioception. This includes performing visual testing, observing posture, balance, movement & gait & doing some specific tests for BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).
The assessment has 3 purposes:
1. To identify between a central (and refer onto a neurologist or Ear Nose & Throat specialist) or peripheral problem– & help determine the best treatment based on the assessment findings.
2. To educate the client re their symptoms and causes, to identify the main problem and how to treat & resolve the symptoms of dizziness.
3. To develop an individualized treatment plan incorporating balance exercises, habituation exercises, gaze stabilisation exercises, retraining the proprioceptors of the neck and improving vestibular function.
With BPPV this may also warrant treatment using the Epley manoeuvre (canalith repositioning technique).
Some of the exercise and activities may at first increase the symptoms, as the body and brain attempt to sort out the new pattern of movements. But with time and consistent work, the coordination signals from the eyes, proprioception, and vestibular system will occur.
How does therapy help?
1. Improved balance- if the exercises are correctly and faithfully performed.
2. Reduced tension of muscles , headaches and more energy.
3. Symptoms of dizziness and vertigo and nausea will decrease or disappear
Many times, vestibular physiotherapy is so successful that no other treatment is required.
If you suffer from symptoms, there is help:make an appointment today with one of our specially trained Physiotherapists at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy.