The room is spinning out of control. You can’t see straight. You’re disoriented and dizzy. You start to feel nauseous. The worst part is, you don’t know when it’ll stop. And you don’t know when it’ll strike next.
If you suffer from a vestibular disorder like vertigo, this might sound all too familiar. The feeling of unsteadiness and losing your balance can be very disturbing. Unfortunately, vertigo is quite common, affecting nearly 40% of people over the age of 40 at least once in their lifetime, according to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.
The Vestibular System Explained
The vestibular system processes sensory information that controls our balance, eye movements, and influences our posture. Our vision, ears, facial muscles and the processors on the soles of our feet are all important components of the vestibular system.
If the brain doesn’t receive proper information from the vestibular system, we can experience dizziness, unclear vision, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or loss of balance.
Causes of Vertigo
There are many causes for dizziness and vertigo; some are quick to treat, while others take more time and persistence. Illness like a viral or bacterial infection, trauma from an injury (such as to the head or neck), swelling of a nerve, stroke, etc. could result in a vestibular disorder, of which there are many. The most common are:
- BPPV – Benign Paroxysmal Position Movement
- Labyrinthitis – inflammation of the inner ear that results in hearing changes and vertigo
- Vestibular neuritis – inflammation of the nerve from the inner ear to the brain resulting in vertigo
- Migraine-associated vertigo
- Meniere’s Disease – a rare disease of the inner ear causing sudden attacks of vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, a feeling of fullness in the ears, and tinnitus
Vestibular disorders are also associated with nausea, giddiness, weakness, anxiety, or panic attacks. People are often unable to read or look at screens, have trouble concentrating, and in severe cases, are unable to walk or even stand.
Because of this it is hard to lead a normal, happy life. Some people can find relief by undergoing vestibular rehabilitation.
How vestibular rehabilitation can help
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) retrains the brain to recognize and correctly interpret signals from the vestibular system, often curing people of vertigo depending on the cause. Some benefits of VRT are:
- Get partial or complete relief from vertigo and dizziness
- Helps regain balance and improves safety
- Involuntary eye movements are often decreased
- Gain increased confidence and stability while performing activities
- Helps to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly
A physiotherapist will start with a thorough assessment to get an accurate diagnosis of the cause(s) and come up with a complete course of action to help treat the causes. Treatments are sometimes hands-on and are often exercise-based interventions to improve head and eye coordination as well as balance.
If you’re suffering from a vestibular disorder like vertigo, we’re here to help!