Vestibular Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation

An Introduction to Vestibular Physiotherapy

The vestibular system is a sensory system which is vital for balance. It senses and controls motion and combines information with that of the visual and proprioceptive systems. Sometimes, however, the vestibular system does not function correctly and this can cause problems due to the lack of normal input to the brain which causes an abnormal response and hence a feeling of dizziness or vertigo. This leads to quite marked functional issues for some people.

At Harpenden Physiotherapy, we understand how frustrating conditions like these can be, and we are able to see and treat patients who have a wide range of vestibular problems. We offer expert vestibular physiotherapy in Hertfordshire in order to successfully relieve symptoms and help you regain control over the condition.

What causes vestibular disorders?

People can become dizzy for many different reasons although there are a number of more common conditions which can be effectively treated with a rehabilitation programme tailored to each individual.

One of the most common disorders is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), an alarming name for what is an unpleasant but seldom serious condition whereby crystals within the inner ear become dislodged into the semi-circular canals causing problems as they move in the fluid and send messages to the brain causing a dizzy response. Causes can be as simple as rolling over in bed or even with sustained positions of the head such as looking upwards whilst painting a ceiling or even after a visit to the dentist or perhaps a blow to the head. You may notice that you become dizzy when you lie down in bed or even bend forwards towards the floor for example. The dizziness will generally be triggered with only very particular head movements and there are no problems the rest of the time hence the name “positional”.

Other common problems that can cause dizziness include vestibular neuritis, labyrinthitis and Meniere’s disease. These all affect people in different ways but usually they will leave people feeling unable to function as normal due to the lack of normal messages being relayed from the vestibular system. This can cause quite a problem for both work and social aspects of our lives.

The impact of vertigo is often underestimated. Vertigo can increase the possibility of having a fall which is particularly pertinent if the client is elderly or at greater risk, and there are also strong links between vertigo and anxiety.

Can vestibular disorders cause headaches?

Vestibular migraines or migrainous vertigo is a type of migraine that may or may not cause a headache, but can include a number of debilitating symptoms affecting the ears, vision and balance.

When can you start vestibular rehabilitation?

Most patients can begin a programme of graded exercises as soon as acute symptoms have settled and there are no underlying conditions present that could be a potential problem..

At Harpenden Physiotherapy, we always complete a thorough initial assessment to diagnose the underlying problem and then, depending on the diagnosis, we can work towards correcting the issues. A series of customized exercises can be significantly more beneficial than a more general course of treatment. We will begin by carrying out a series of tests that are important in order to assess the integrity of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Tests that we would include are:

  • VOR – vestibular ocular reflex
  • Smooth pursuits
  • Saccades
  • Visual tracking
  • Unterberger’s
  • Rhomberg’s
  • Gait and balance analysis
  • Dix Hallpike

When patients have BPPV and it is appropriate to perform the Epley manoeuvre it is advisable for you to have somebody drive you to and from your appointment as sometimes after treatment you may feel a little light headed. This is perfectly normal and to be expected.

Frequently asked questions

We’ve compiled answers to a couple of frequently asked questions surrounding vestibular disorders and physiotherapy to help put you at ease,

How much is a session?

New patient assessments are £60. Follow-up treatments then start at £40. Visit our booking page for further information including a full pricing breakdown.

Are vestibular disorders curable?

By working through a programme of specific vestibular rehabilitation exercises most people are able to adapt and compensate for the lack of information coming from the vestibular system.

The brain is then able to learn how to respond to the messages it is receiving as we move and make more appropriate responses and thus reduce the dizziness. Practice and repetition are the key to a successful programme.

For BPPV there is a technique called the Epley manoeuvre which, after careful assessment, a series of specific positions are used to relocate the crystals out of the semi-circular canals.

Call Harpenden Physiotherapy today

If moving your head position brings on symptoms of vertigo, contact us on 01582 761448 and book an appointment with Karen Osborn, our physiotherapy vestibular specialist.

If you are unsure as to whether you may benefit from a vestibular assessment, please feel free to get in touch to discuss your situation and we will be happy to advise you.

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