VESTIBULAR REHABILITATION THERAPY (VRT) SPECIALIST
If you have experienced dizziness, lightheadedness or vertigo, you are not alone. An estimated 69 million people have experienced similar symptoms throughout their lifetime. It may be the result of a vestibular disorder. While many leave their symptoms untreated, vestibular therapy may help those who wish to find relief.
Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is one solution. VRT may help control symptoms and reduce functional disabilities. It aims to improve one’s quality of life. ATI has certified vestibular rehabilitation therapists available to treat patients suffering from vestibular disorders.
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy is a physical therapy program designed to help patients that are suffering from vestibular dysfunction.
Vestibular therapy provides the best care and long-term results. A past study showed that patients who used VRT saw 70-80% improvement in their symptoms. Further, when compared to patients that received no vestibular treatment, these same patients saw initial and continued improvements even six months later.
What is vestibular rehabilitation?
Vestibular rehabilitation (VR) is a specialized form of therapy intended to alleviate both the primary and secondary problems due to vestibular disorders. It is an exercise-based program primarily designed to reduce vertigo and dizziness, reduce gaze instability, and/or reduce imbalance and fall risk as well as address any secondary impairments that are a consequence of the vestibular disorder.
For most people who have a vestibular disorder, the deficit is permanent because the amount of restoration of vestibular function is very small. However, after vestibular system damage, symptoms can reduce and function can improve because of compensation. This occurs because the brain learns to use other senses vision and somatosensory ,body sense to substitute for the deficient vestibular system. For many, compensation occurs naturally over time, but for patients whose symptoms do not reduce and who continue to have difficulty returning to daily activities, VR can assist in recovery by promoting compensation.
The goal of VR is to use a problem oriented approach to promote compensation. This is achieved by customizing exercises to address the specific problem of each individual. Therefore, before an exercise program can be designed, a comprehensive clinical examination is needed to identify problems related to the vestibular disorder. Depending on the vestibular-related problemidentified.
Balance training exercise:
Balance Training exercises are used to improve steadiness so that daily activities for self-care, work, and leisure can be performed successfully. Exercises used to improve balance should be designed to address each patient’s specific underlying balance problems Also, to promote changes in balance, the exercises need to be moderately challenging, but safe enough so patients do not fall while doing them.
Additionally, balance exercises should be designed to reduce environmental barriers and fall risk.
Balance (Vestibular) Rehabilitation:
When there is a problem in the balance (or vestibular) system either in the ears or in the brain, the symptoms can range from mild to very severe. The symptoms can range from feeling dizzy for days, weeks or months to feeling dizzy for a split-second when turning quickly.
Over time, these symptoms typically become less severe, as the brain re-learns the new functioning level of the balance system.
For normal balance we rely on the inner ears’ balance organs (one in the right ear and one in the left ear) to send signals to the brain when we move. Fluid in 3 semicircular canals in each ear (arranged in the 3 dimensions of space) move as our head moves, triggering movement in hair cells to send signals to the brain about where our head is in space. The purpose of these semicircular canals is mainly to stabilize the eyes, so that we can keep our vision stable when we move our head. There are other organs in the inner ear that sense gravity and linear movement. These inner ear organs work in unison.
A problem (perhaps a viral infection or a blood clot reducing the function of one ear’s balance system) results in reduced signals from this affected ear, but normal signals coming from the ‘good ear’. When the brain receives these signals they are out of balance we experience dizziness.
Vestibular rehabilitation allows the brain to learn the new pattern of signals when we move. Once these patterns are learnt, then movements should not cause dizziness.
Symptoms of dizziness become less during vestibular rehabilitation as a consequence of the brain relearning the patterns of signals coming from the inner ears. The original problem which caused the dizziness often does not itself get better but as the brain relearns the new signals we stop feeling dizzy when we move. In some people, vestibular rehabilitation happens naturally, but for most people, specific exercises can help this process to happen faster and further, than otherwise it would.
The principle behind the exercises is to provide the brain with repetitive sets of signals from the inner ears produced by head and body movements, so that the brain can learn these new signals. Until these new signals are learnt by the brain, the exercises will cause dizziness.