Vestibular rehabilitation ( VRT ) is an exercise-based program, designed by a specialized physical therapist, to improve balance and reduce problems related to dizziness.
People with vestibular disorders often experience problems with vertigo, dizziness, visual disturbance, and/or imbalance. These are the problems that rehabilitation aims to address. Other problems can also arise that are secondary to vestibular disorders, such as nausea and/or vomiting, reduced ability to focus or concentrate, and fatigue.
How is Dizziness defined?
Dizziness can be described as:
Feelings of unsteadiness
Wooziness (swimming feeling in head)
Feelings of passing out
Sensations of moving
Whirling (sensations known as vertigo)
These feelings or sensations can occur when you are standing still, lying down, or changing positions. The symptoms can be constant or episodic in nature, only lasting seconds, minutes or hours.
What causes Dizziness?
Each year, more than 10 million patients visit a physician due to dizziness. It is the most common complaint of patients over the age of 75, but it can occur in patients of any age. Dizziness is generally not serious, but is often a sign of a mechanical problem. Dizziness can be due to an inner ear disorder, a side effect of medications, a sign of neck dysfunction, or it can be due to a more serious problem such as a brain or a heart problem.
Who benefits from Vestibular Rehabilitation?
Patients typically referred for vestibular rehabilitation therapy are those diagnosed with dizziness, imbalance, vertigo, Meniere’s syndrome, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), neck-related dizziness, and migraines. Other candidates are patients who have had a stroke or brain injury or who frequently fall.
Common symptoms that can be helped with vestibular rehabilitation include:
Dizziness or blurry vision with head movements
Neck tightness, stiffness, and/or pain
Imbalance or the need to hold onto objects when walking
Generalized “dizziness, wooziness and foggy head” feelings
At your appointment, a physical therapist will evaluate your symptoms and review your medical history. Your assessment will include all or part of the following areas:
Balance and/or leg strength/flexibility
Gait (how you walk)
Visual stability and mobility
Neck mobility and neck and arm strength
Positional testing, including an inner ear exam
Based on the findings, a plan of care is developed. The goal of your treatment plan is to improve any deficits that were identified. This, in turn, will improve your ability to function in activities of everyday living, reduce your risk for falling, and ultimately, improve your quality of life.
How long is a typical vestibular rehabilitation program?
Patients are typically seen one to two times each week for 6 to 8 weeks, but this varies based on the patient’s diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and response to therapy. Some patients may be seen for only one to two sessions; other patients may need continued treatment for a few months
What type of recovery/outcome can I expect from vestibular rehabilitation?s
With our latest tools and techniques, expected vestibular rehabilitation outcomes include:
Decreased risk of falling
A decrease in dizziness symptoms
Improved ability to stabilize vision/gaze
Increased body strength
Return to prior level of movement/function
Increase in confidence in ability to maintain balance
Improved neck motion, reduced symptoms
How successful is vestibular rehabilitation therapy?
Many times, vestibular rehabilitation therapy will be the only treatment needed. Other times, it is a part of the presurgery/postsurgery treatment plan. In most cases, if patients continue to perform the exercises they have learned, balance and dizziness problems decrease significantly or completely disappear.