Archive for April, 2009

Springtime = Allergy Season

Whenever I read vestibular disorder forums there are always questions about allergies and vestibular disorders. Do my allergies increase my vestibular disorder symptoms? Are my symptoms just allergies or are they a bigger problem, like a vestibular disorder?

Allergies can increase vestibular disorder symptoms because inner ear passageways get clogged and congested, causing an increase in dizziness or even vertigo. Some allergy medication will relieve allergy symptoms, but will not necessarily relieve vestibular disorder symptoms (why rehab therapy is so important!). One question posed at our Vestibular Support Group was, “Why would the doctor tell me to take allergy medication when the side effects are ‘dizziness’…when I’m already dizzy?” How frustrating!!!

As far as allergies or vestibular disorder —> diagnosis over a blog would just be silly – go see your doctor! Through tests your doctor will be able to pinpoint the cause and give you a proper diagnosis. Make sure to mention ALL symptoms you are having so the doctor can determine allergies or vestibular disorder.

Go Michele, our own Lance Armstrong!

We are very proud to announce that our fearless leader, Michele, will be taking part in the Team Bright Pink bike ride to benefit women’s breast and ovarian health. This ride will be taking place on May 10th, 2009 in scenic Racine, Wisconsin, and the option for 25, 50, or 100 mile ride. Michele’s motivated for the 50 miler and we wish her the best!

For more information on Team Bright Pink go to:

An Article for the Dizzy

This article is a great source for anyone who has dealt with or is dealing with dizziness. It has many descriptive circumstances that dizzy individuals will be able to relate to and it provides great tips and ideas about dealing with chronic dizziness.

It includes information on causes, predisposing factors, and in depth look at different treatments, including: 

  • pharmacological/medicinal options
  • surgery
  • diet
  • physical therapy & exercise
  • other (balance centers, etc.)

2nd Vestibular Support Group a Success!

Thanks to all those who took part in our Vestibular Support Group this past Saturday. Our team was joined by almost triple the amount of attendees as the 1st VSG and it was an overwhelming success. Our attendees were engaged and interactive and openly shared their experiences and struggles.

The attendees had a wide range of disorders requiring vestibular rehabilitation, including neurotoxicity, acoustic neuroma, and positional vertigo, among others. So many attendees had the same experience of seeing numerous doctors in various fields who were unaware of vestibular rehab. Some had tried medications with varied results, but all who have been patients or are patients say the same thing: the exercises provided at therapy WORK!

One patient, N*, is a current patient and states that the isolation factor of her vestibular disorder is the most difficult part for her. When her loss of balance and dizziness increased, she was unable to leave the house for long periods of time and do the things she loves. When she began therapy, she had “never seen such improvement…This improvement has allowed me to live, and to live independently.”

As well as the isolation factor, attendees were often frustrated when they had set backs during therapy, which many of them did. They discussed how there would be weeks of marked improvement and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, there would be a set back. The most important thing to do when faced with a set back is to persevere and continue the exercises, agreed the patients. Do not quit therapy because of a set back. Continue with your exercises and you will see an improvement.

A date for the next Vestibular Support Group has not yet been set, but will be announced as soon as it is. In the upcoming Support Groups, we will be bringing in guest speakers, inviting other medical professionals who deal with vestibular disorders, and preparing surveys for the support group so that we can have your ideas for topics.

We hope to see you there!

*First and last names will not be used for privacy reasons.

Why Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy?

There are many different treatments for vestibular disorders, including medications, dietary changes, surgery and vestibular rehabilitation therapy. I’m going to focus on vestibular rehabilitation therapy today*.

Rehabilitation therapy focuses on re-training the brain to coordinate the information between the senses and the vestibular system so that signals are sent correctly to the brain. The vestibular system tells the brain where the head is in space (up, down, left…). In certain disorders, such as BPPV, false signals are sent the brain when the head is moved, and a false sense of their location in space ensues, which causes dizziness and may cause a loss of balance.

Therapy will initially be simple exercises that will increase in difficulty as your brain trains itself. Just as with any training, there may be an increase in symptoms when beginning therapy. Use running as an example. If you were not runner but wanted to run a marathon, the first few weeks of your program your legs would be sore. But if you continue to exercise and follow the program, your legs would eventually become stronger and the soreness would subside. The same thing happens with therapy and your brain. After a few weeks of exercise and therapy your brain will become stronger and begin to coordinate the signals so that your symptoms will decrease markedly.

Rehabilitation therapy works for three main reasons: adaptation, substitution and habituation. Adaptation: By keeping your eyes focusing on a target while moving, the brain learns to adapt to incoming signals. Substitution: Your other senses learn to compensate, or substitute, when one is damaged. Habituation: Doing the exercises over and over will result in the brain getting used to it. (1)

*Please consult your doctor before you began any treatment plan.

3 Things You Should Know About Vestibular Disorders

1. Vestibular Disorders Do Not Discriminate
Vestibular disorders can strike anyone. While the majority of vestibular disorder sufferers are middle aged and older, per my post yesterday, it can affect children as well. In our office we see individuals from all different cultures, backgrounds, socioeconomic groups, with one thing in common: they all want to get better!

2. Some Medications Hinder Natural Vestibular Compensation Process
When visiting a general practitioner for dizziness, 70% of patients receive a perscription for Meclizine. Meclizine, or Antivert, has been shown to actually hinder the natural compensation process (1). While medications are often used to initially reduce symptoms during vertigo episodes, Antiverts act as a sedative and actually delays the central nervous system, which can impede vestibular rehabilitation therapy. Meclizine has the effect on the central nervous system equal to blood alcohol levels of .04 to .06% (2).

3. Physical Therapy can Help!
Through the use of both highly technical machines like Balance Quest and simple exercises, physical therapy can help get you back on your feet and control the symptoms. At our office, over 90% of our patients experience a marked decrease in symptoms within 4-6 weeks. Therapy begins with simple exercises and the degree of difficulty will increase as therapy continues.


Vestibular Disorders & Children

We tend to overlook certain demographics when discussing vestibular disorders, including children. Vestibular disorders are often viewed as disorders that affect only elderly populations. Although children make up a small percentage of the vestibular disorder population, they are often the most difficult to treat.
I came across two great, easy-to-read articles on vestibular disorders in children. *Please note: These are not scientific articles.

1) Vestibular Disorders: Causes and effects of a hidden problem. Jennifer Blomgren.
Details how vestibular disorders can negatively effect children, both physically and emotionally. Gives great insight to the impact on their quality of life.;col1

2) How to Recognize Children’s Vestibular Sense Problems. eHow Health Editor.
Six step to helping you recognize if your child has vestibular disorders.