Habituation exercises are when the patient is repeatedly exposed to techniques and exercises that stimulate the vestibular symptoms. Through repeated exposure to these exercises, the brain will re-train and be accustomed to the movements and the symptoms will lessen.
These habituation exercises will vary depending on the patient’s vestibular symptoms but will always include exercises that trigger the symptoms (ie. vertigo, nausea). Habituation is just one of the techniques used to combat dizziness and may take awhile to train the brain. But, from a positive perspective, here is one case study that shows a great result of habituation exercises.
“Patient: The patient was a 34-year-old marine biologist referred for treatment of motion sickness. During the past 5 years, she experienced 3 severe episodes of vertigo, which lasted several days and were increasingly more severe. Initially, the only symptom was a feeling of light-headedness. Symptoms during the third episode included nausea, vertigo, and limited ability to function, and these symptoms persisted…The medical examination done by the neurotologist included rotary chair testing with electronystagmography and posturography, both of which were negative for central and peripheral vestibular deficits or other deficits. She had no other medical problems (eg, hearing loss, migraines) that could lead to motion sickness, and she had no precipitating illnesses or conditions (eg, trauma, inner ear infections) that could contribute to her current problem. The patient took no medications and had normal vision without corrective lenses. She had no family history of vertigo, vestibular dysfunction, or motion sickness.
<other information: Initial interview, Physical examination, Intervention, Outcomes (week 2 follow-up, week 4 follow-up, week 7 follow-up)>
WEEK 10 FOLLOW-UP: The patient could complete all exercises without difficulty, had resumed all work activities, and experienced no dizziness at home or when driving. She experienced only mild motion sickness (mild light-headedness, but no nausea, dizziness, or sweating) after scuba diving for 3 hours, but could continue if necessary. Once out of the water (but still on the boat), all symptoms subsided within 15 to 20 minutes. The patient was instructed to continue with the exercises twice weekly to maintain her status and was discharged from therapy. Upon telephone follow-up 10 months later, she reported that she had stopped the exercises and was maintaining her ability to function at work and at home.”