Vertigo, Dizziness, Balance Problems?
So, you are experiencing dizziness or vertigo, balance problems, and difficulty functioning like your normal self. This is not a normal feeling, but there are several reasons why you may be feeling these symptoms. One of the major reasons a person can experience dizziness, vertigo, and/or balance problems is because they have a problem with their vestibular system. At Specialized Physical Therapy – Cherry Hill and Specialized Physical Therapy – Burlington, we are vestibular therapy specialists. Let’s learn a little more about the vestibular system!
The Vestibular System, What Is That?
The vestibular system is basically your body’s GPS system. This system is located within the inner-ear and helps you determine where you are in space. The vestibular system is very sensitive to movement and changes in position, especially of the head and neck. The vestibular system produces two main reflexes of the body: 1. The Vestibular-Ocular Reflex (VOR) and 2. The Vestibular-Spinal Reflex (VSR). The VOR and VSR are responsible for producing reflexive eye movements and limb movements, respectively, in response to head movement. This allows the body to move in a coordinated manner without loss of balance or symptoms of dizziness/vertigo.
What Causes A Vestibular Problem?
When there is a problem with the vestibular system, it is often known as vestibular dysfunction or a vestibular disorder. Most vestibular dysfunctions occur due to a viral infection, sometimes a bacterial infection. Vestibular dysfunction can also occur after trauma, such as from concussion. Typically when a person gets a vestibular dysfunction from a viral infection, they experience a sudden onset of dizziness/vertigo, loss of balance, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. Hearing loss/change is also possible. These initial symptoms can last 24-72 hours, making it difficult to move around, including getting out of bed. The good news is, that for most people these initial symptoms start to settle down and by 1 week/10 days, their ability to move around and the intensity of symptoms greatly improves. During this first week, a patient may be prescribed medication from their physician to help control the dizziness. Typically meclizine or antivert is prescribed.
After the first week and symptoms are beginning to improve, it is very important to wean off or stop the medication. This allows the body to naturally recover, also known as central compensation. To promote central compensation, a person is encouraged to gradually increase their activity levels and begin to normalize movement. Remember the vestibular system is sensitive to movement, so to recover, the body needs to be exposed to movement. Initially this may trigger or provoke symptoms, but as a person progresses these symptoms typically resolve.
What happens if things do not improve after one week/10 days or a person continues to experience symptoms several weeks after onset?
This is when vestibular therapy is recommended to promote recovery. Vestibular therapy is a specialized method of physical therapy that is designed to 1. Eliminate/Decrease dizziness, 2. Stabilize balance, and 3. Promote recovery of function. Vestibular specialists or physical therapists specially trained in vestibular therapy help people recover from vestibular dysfunction. Here at Specialized Physical Therapy – Cherry Hill and Specialized Physical Therapy – Burlington, all of our physical therapists are trained in vestibular therapy.
How long does it take to recover with vestibular therapy?
Recovery time can vary from one person to the next. Typically a vestibular rehabilitation program can last 4 to 8 weeks. Factors such as compliance with prescribed home exercises, medical issues, and time from onset can determine duration of rehabilitation. The type of vertigo is also a factor. There are two major conditions that arise from the inner-ear: 1. Vestibular neuritis or labrynthitis and 2. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Vestibular neuritis/labrynthitis takes a few weeks to feel better with rehabilitation. People with BPPV can often experience relief of vertigo in one visit! Stay tuned for our future blog post on BPPV.
What if I am experiencing dizziness, vertigo, or balance problems or I have been diagnosed with a vestibular disorder?
Your next step is to find a physical therapist that specializes in vestibular therapy. At Specialized Physical Therapy – Cherry Hill and Specialized Physical Therapy – Burlington we have Doctors of Physical Therapy ready to help you recover. You will receive a comprehensive examination to determine the specific problems that are contributing to your symptoms and an individualized treatment plan to promote recovery.
To make an appointment with the best vestibular therapy near me and the best physical therapy near me, please call 856-424-0993 (Cherry Hill Physical Therapy) or 609-880-0880 (Burlington Physical Therapy) or you can request an appointment by clicking HERE.
To learn more about concussion as a cause of dizziness and how concussion therapy can help, click HERE.