If you experience vertigo, dizziness, or have had falls or balance problems, vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) may be able to help. Vestibular refers to the inner ear and its effect on a person’s overall sense of balance. VRT is designed to enhance postural and gaze stability, reduce vertigo, and most importantly, improve a patient’s quality of daily living. VRT consists of three types of treatments with different goals: habituation, adaptation, and substitution.
Vestibular habituation uses positions that induce vertigo to decrease a patient’s symptoms. Habituation exercises have been shown to improve balance in 4-6 weeks. Exercises may include changing positions or head movements while emphasizing the speed of the movement.
Vestibular adaptation focuses on improving the remaining vestibular function with gaze stability and postural stability exercises. Gaze stability exercises include focusing your gaze on a target during head movements, head and target movements, and with incorporating busy visual fields. It is recommended that gaze stability exercises be done 4-5 times a day for a total of 20-40 minutes a day. Postural stability exercises include balancing with eyes open, eyes closed, on different surfaces, and with differing bases of support. Additional adaptation exercises can include walking while turning, walking in a spiral path, and walking on different surfaces.
Vestibular substitution uses visual and other cues to substitute for lost vestibular functioning. Exercises include improving smooth pursuit and imaginary pursuit eye movements, improving visual dependency by balancing with conflicting visual stimuli, and improving overall balance on different surfaces.
Physical therapy can help you to improve your vestibular and balance problems and enhance your quality of life. For more information on VRT, please visit www.sptny.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Cabrera Kang, C.M., & Tulsa, R.J. (2013). Vestibular rehabilitation: Rationale and indications. Seminars in Neurology, 33(3): 276-285.
- Han, B.I., Song, H.S., & Kim, J.S. (2011). Vestibular rehabilitation therapy: Review of indications, mechanisms, and key exercises. Journal of Clinical Neurology, 7:184-196.