The vestibular system is made up of the inner ear and the brain. The brain receives input from the inner ear on an ongoing basis, telling it what our head and the rest of our body is doing. That is why we can move our head with our eyes closed and still be aware that our head is moving. When these signals get crossed, it can result in dizziness or vertigo.
Many of us will, at some point, experience some form of dizziness that resolves on its own but regular dizziness can become severely disabling. Some potential causes of dizziness are listed below:
- ear infection
- impaired circulation
- vision problems
- peripheral neuropathies (i.e. diminished sensation in the feet in diabetics can affect signals to the brain and cause unsteadiness)
- aging – there is gradual degeneration of the vestibular system as we age and this naturally increases the risk of falls in the elderly
Vestibular rehabilitation is a form of therapy used to treat dizziness. It takes advantage of the brain’s ability to adapt and uses exercises targeting motor coordination and visual reflexes to improve one’s balance and focus. Many studies have shown the benefit of these exercise protocols for reducing dizziness and improving overall function and safety. If you are experiencing true vertigo or BBPV -Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (i.e. feel that the room is spinning/objects are moving), your therapist may take you through some different maneuvers to re-position the cystals in the inner ear and reset the signals to the brain. Because every case is different, a qualified therapist must take a patient’s history and perform an assessment to determine the most appropriate course of action.