Our vestibular system is essential for proper functioning in day to day life. It is always at work without us even being aware of it. Our vestibular system detects movements of our head in space. This is followed by reflex actions that move our eyes and activate our postural muscles. Thanks to this system, we can maintain a clear vision even when our head is moving. It also plays a very important role in maintaining balance and postural stability.
Our vestibular system is a very small and well-protected set of organs located within our inner ear. We actually have two sets, one on each side of the head. Unfortunately, it can happen that one side (or both) stops working as well as it should. A viral infection, a head impact, a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or even some medications are a few examples of causes that can affect the functioning of our vestibular system.
Fortunately, the problems affecting the vestibular system are, for the most part, temporary and reversible. A physiotherapist can play an important role in rehabilitation following vestibular damage in order to ensure optimal recovery.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSULT A VESTIBULAR PHYSIOTHERAPIST?
- You feel the room spinning around you.
- You have difficulty changing positions.
- You have blurry vision.
- You feel unsteady when you walk or tend to lose your balance.
- You have had ear surgery.
- You have been in a car accident or have had a concussion.
- Your dizziness limits your activities or your participation in sports.
THE PHYSIOTHERAPIST’S INTERVENTION
The goal of vestibular rehabilitation is to maximize the function of your vestibular system and to re-educate the coordination of all your sensory systems involved in maintaining balance and postural stability. The visual system and the balance system (proprioception) interact directly with the vestibular system. The cervical region also contributes to our balance and orientation in space. The physiotherapist must therefore ensure that all of these systems are functioning optimally. To do this, the physiotherapist:
- Does a complete evaluation of these sensory systems to determine the diagnosis and explain your condition to you,
- Develops a treatment plan combining specific vestibular maneuvers with manual therapy to alleviate your symptoms and treat your condition,
- Prescribes specific exercises targeting motor control, balance and coordination as well as postural advice to enhance your daily living,
- Promotes the integration of your senses which will allow you to improve your ability to function.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- Vestibular neuritis
- Ménière’s disease
- Unilateral/bilateral hypofunction of the inner ear
- Migraine-associated vertigo
- Head injury (concussion)/Motor vehicle accident (MVA)
- Trouble with vision or hearing
- Cerebrovascular accident (CVA)
- Central nervous system problems (CNS)