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Vestibular Rehabilitation

Treatment for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

What is the vestibular system?

anatomy_of_the_ear.jpgThe vestibular system is located within the inner ear and is a complex structure that gathers information for the human body in regards to motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation. One’s balance comes from a combination of three things: proprioception (the feeling of where your body is in space), vision, and vestibular system processing.

Vestibular problems

Vestibular problems, or dysfunctions, can start spontaneously, or can be caused by a variety of factors including head injuries, aging and infections. Although there are many reasons for “dizziness”, a physical therapist can help differentiate the exact cause through testing.

The most common vestibular disorder is BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo). It is a mechanical problem of the inner ear in which calcium carbonate crystals (otoconia) become dislodged and migrate to a part of the ear where they are not supposed to be. The main symptoms you will notice are:

  • Sudden onset of vertigo (dizziness) with movement of the head
  • The symptoms are not constant, they come-and-go

BPPV is fairly common. It affects 107 per 100,000 people per year and can impact adults of any age, especially seniors.

What is Vestibular Rehab?

It is a program designed by a Physical Therapist to improve and reduce vertigo-related problems. The program consists of two segments:

  1. Canalith repositioning (one example is the Epley maneuver) to re-locate the carbonate crystals to their proper place within the inner ear
  2. Addressing any residual deficits with:
    • Habituation techniques: to treat symptoms caused from movement of the head
    • Gaze stabilization techniques: helps improve vision during head movements
    • Balance training: improves steadiness and decreases fall risk

Studies have shown resolution rates into the 90% range with 1–3 treatment sessions.

How to get started

Ask your physician for a physical therapy referral if this sounds like it would benefit you or a loved one.

For more information about Vestibular Rehabilitation or to schedule an evaluation, contact the Rehabilitation Department at Fremont Health at 402-727-3329.