Vestibular dysfunction is a condition experienced by millions of Americans every year. It can occur spontaneously or after a traumatic incident and be very debilitating, producing symptoms of vertigo, dizziness, nausea, loss of balance and headaches. Vestibular dysfunction is broken down into 2 categories; central and peripheral.
Central vestibular dysfunction involves a dysfunction of areas of the brain that process information coming in from various sensory organs allowing one to maintain their balance. For one reason or another, the incoming messages are processed incorrectly. This can result in dizziness, loss of balance, headaches, and eye pain.
Peripheral vestibular dysfunction involves structures of the inner ear, particularly the semi circular canals and the vestibule, which are filled with fluid. Problems arise when small crystals break loose and fall into the semi circular canals or build up on small hair cells in the vestibule. This results in abnormal nerve impulses being sent to the balance centers of the brain giving the false impression of movement. One would experience a feeling of the room spinning with head movements, position changes, or even sitting still. This is often referred as BPPV or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.
Although these symptoms may be severe and debilitating, physical therapy can be very successful in treating vestibular dysfunction. Therapists will examine eye and head movements, position changes, and physical structures to determine which component(s) of the vestibular system are involved. Treatment for central dysfunction usually involves exercises designed to desensitize the individual to the problem movements. Treatment for the peripheral dysfunction involves moving the individual through different positions to flush the crystals out the semi circular canals or break them loose from the hair cells. When you decide to have physical therapy treatment for vestibular dysfunction, make sure the therapist has had specific training in vestibular rehabilitation.
Carey and Daley Physical Therapy has several therapists with training in vestibular rehabilitation. For more information call (315)652-4323.