Do you suffer from balance disorders or dizziness? Experiencing dizziness and vertigo?
Almost half of all adults aged 18 and older experience vertigo, a sensation of whirling and loss of balance. 39% percent have feelings of unsteadiness and 36% suffer from dizziness. The these conditions occur together 69% of the time. Other symptoms include falling or feeling like the ground is moving, disorientation and visual blurring.
Despite the occurrence of these disabling symptoms, 50% of patients do not get a diagnosis.
Instead, the vast majority, as many as 70%, are given medication to treat the symptoms without understanding the cause. In the past, there weren’t many treatment options for balance disorders. Doctors would often tell patients either that the symptoms would go away or they would just have to live with it.
That is no longer the case. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT), developed by NASA and the military, offers patients with balance disorders the opportunity to leave their symptoms behind. VRT retrains the vestibular system in the inner ear that is responsible for balance to compensate for any damage or dysfunction. VRT exercises are designed to teach the brain to use other senses (vision and somatosensory, i.e. body sense) to substitute for the deficient vestibular system. These exercises take advantage of the body’s ability to adapt the balance system for the changes that have brought on the dizziness.
There are seven causes of balance disorders/dizziness:
- Viral Labyrinthistis – a viral infection of the inner ear with a sudden onset of symptoms.
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – dizziness, usually very intense with episodes lasting about a minute, usually brought on by sudden head movements.
- Meniere’s Disease – repetitive episodes of dizziness lasting from 2-24 hours with varying degrees of hearing loss.
- Vertigo of vascular origin – poor or restricted blood flow to the brain.
- Post-traumatic vertigo – dizziness after head injury.
- Peripheral Vestibular Disorder – indications of a problem in the vestibular system of the inner ear.
- Central neurological – indications of a problem in the central nervous system.
VRT has been shown to be effective for all causes of balance disorders with the exception of Meniere’s Disease. Many patients experience a dramatic reduction in symptoms after 6-8 weeks of VRT. Physiotherapy by a nationally-certified Vestibular Rehabilitation Specialist should be part of all comprehensive treatment programs for balance disorders.
After the cause of a balance disorder has been diagnosed, and the condition has been assessed and treated with VRT, the third critical phase of a comprehensive treatment program is long-term management of the condition. The key to long-term management is to strengthen the vestibular system to prevent recurrence. Exercise supervised by a nationally-certified Vestibular Rehabilitation specialist is the best way to avoid the reccurrence of dizziness and falling. Set backs are very common for patients who discontinue exercise when the symptoms go away. Patients must continue to perform the exercise routines at home after completing VRT to keep the symptoms from returning.