What is Balance?
Balance is defined as your ability to maintain your body’s center of mass over your base of support. In order to maintain balance your body relies on three sensory systems:
*Proprioception (touch receptors)
*Vestibular system (inner ear)
What affects these systems, which inhibits your balance?
Many people believe your ears main function is solely hearing, however, your ear has a second job, specifically the inner ear. That job is detecting motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation. The inner ear contains vestibular organs that sense motion and relay signals to your eyes, brain, and postural muscles. Your ears and eyes work very closely together in a push-pull mechanism. When working together properly, your vision is clear while your head or body is moving.
The inner ear also sends signals to the brain, which relays information to the postural muscles of your neck and trunk in order to maintain balance. When both ears are working properly they are sending signals to the brain. If one ear is not working properly, your brain and eyes will be receiving incorrect or conflicting signals/messages, causing symptoms such as vertigo, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, visual/hearing changes, or disequilibrium.
Anyone who has experienced severe vestibular symptoms knows the symptoms can be very debilitating and negatively impact their quality of life. Let’s discuss some common vestibular diagnosis and how GVPT can help you regain your life back.
Common Peripheral Vestibular Diagnosis:
1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
BPPV is one of the most common causes of vertigo. It involves tiny crystals of calcium carbonate that normally are stuck to a membrane in your inner ear. These crystals become loose and can disrupt your inner ear, which can stimulate vertigo symptoms.
Causes: Aging and trauma can lead to these crystals becoming detached and free float into 1 of 3 canals of the inner ear. This will cause disrupting signals to the brain thus causing vertigo.
How can PT help? Physical therapy can use a simple maneuver to reset the floating crystals to their proper positioning. This will diminish the vertigo symptoms.
2. Cervicogenic Dizziness
Dizziness accompanied with neck pain and/or stiffness.
Cause: poor posture, cervical muscle tightness, cervical arthritis, improper vertebral joint mobility, or trauma to the cervical spine.
How can PT help? An individualized treatment is designed to treat the neck pathology. The correct combination of therapeutic exercise and manual therapy can resolve the dizziness.
3. Unilateral or Bilateral vestibular hypofunctions associated with:
- Meniere’s Disease
A chronic disease that has to do with changes in amounts of endolymph (fluid) in the inner ear.
Symptoms: vertigo, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), fluctuating hearing loss, aural fullness (ear fullness).
Causes: stress, overwork, fatigue, emotional distress, additional illnesses, pressure changes, specific foods, and excessive salt in one’s diet.
- Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis
Causes: an infection (usually viral) which inflames the inner ear and the vestibulo-cochlea nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain.
- How can PT help? Vestibular rehabilitation exercises have been proven to retrain the brain to adjust to the vestibular hypofunction. Most people notice improvement in their balance and less dizziness after several weeks of vestibular rehabilitation exercises.
- How do I get started?
● Call to set up an evaluation at one of our 4 GVPT locations. Each of our locations has physical therapists trained in vestibular rehabilitation.
● Bring in your Doctors referral, or utilize our DIRECT ACCESS plan (no need for a referral).
What should I expect?
During your initial exam, the physical therapist will perform a thorough examination to determine the cause of your dizziness. The therapist will spend time educating you on the vestibular system and your diagnosis, making sure you understand what and why. The therapist will design a tailored vestibular exercise program specific to your diagnosis that will provide you with the safest and quickest outcome.