Over ninety million people (42 percent of the United State population) experience feelings of dizziness, vertigo, and loss of balance during their lifetime; for many of them, this experience becomes a chronic condition. In the elderly, dizziness is the most common reason that people over seventy five visit a doctor, and for people over 65, falls resulting from a loss of balance are the number 1 cause of serious injury and death.

Approximately three-fourths of these cases of loss of balance and dizziness are caused by peripheral vestibular disorders that affect the middle and inner ear, such as vestibular neuritis, acoustic neuroma, labyrinthitis, perilymphatic fistula, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and Ménière’s disease. All of these conditions affect the inner ear and the delicate system that handles our sense of balance and enables us to maintain control over it. Most of the cases of vertigo and dizziness occur in adults, but these conditions can affect kids as well, with even greater impact because they are often involved with athletics or playground activities in which a sense of balance is key.

There are drug and surgical treatments for these conditions, but 1 of the alternative therapies is called Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT), a form of physical therapy that uses specialized sets of movements to stimulate and retrain the vestibular system. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy exercises are prescribed individually for each patient’s specific symptoms and often involve the use of head movements, eye exercises and gait training designed to improve patients’ gaze and stability. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy cites its goals as seeking to improve balance, decrease the experience of dizziness, improve patients’ stability when moving or walking, improve coordination, minimize falls, and reduce anxiety.

VRT has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms for many people suffering from the conditions mentioned above, and for those with other forms of bilateral or unilateral vestibular loss. The effectiveness of VRT in patients suffering from these conditions who did not respond to earlier treatment methodologies has been proven in several clinical trials. On the other hand, VRT is not as likely to be beneficial if the underlying cause of vertigo or dizziness is due to transient ischemic attacks (TIA), low blood pressure, anxiety or depression or reactions to medications, migraine headaches.

Because the specific exercises in a regimen of Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy vary according to the patient’s symptoms and conditions, it is not easy to give an overview of them. But are all taught by trained Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy therapists, and often involve movements of the head, eyes, and body that enable your brain and body to retrain themselves and regain control over their equilibrium and balance, compensating more effectively for the incorrect information sent to them from their inner ear. If you have experienced long-term symptoms of dizziness or vertigo, consult a balance specialist and ask for more information. You may also want to contact the Vestibular Disorders Association and take advantage of many of their short publications and resource materials.

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