Archive for April 24th, 2009

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.