What Is Vestibular Therapy?
Vestibular therapy – also called vestibular rehabilitation – is an exercise program that focuses on improving balance in persons who are suffering from dizziness or disorientation. Feeling unsteady on your feet can be a serious health problem, reducing mobility and increasing the risk of injury from falls. Vestibular therapy addresses a variety of inner-ear disorders and neurological conditions, including vertigo, concussions, and migraines.
At Baptist Health, our vestibular therapy program helps you get safely back on your feet, pursuing the activities that are important to you. Our trained specialists use technology that is not widely available to accurately diagnose balance and vision problems. We use this same technology, along with our state-of-the-art training facilities, to help restore normal vision and balance.
How Does Vestibular Therapy Work? What Does It Accomplish?
Vestibular therapy is an advanced treatment for balance and vision problems caused by disruptions to the delicate structures of your inner ear – the vestibular system. These problems not only interfere with your participation in sports and other forms of physical activity, but they can also make everyday tasks difficult – even dangerous.
Vestibular therapy includes different types of exercises that retrain the brain to overcome problems with vision and balance. These exercises include:
- Habituation: We simulate movements that can make you feel dizzy to help your brain learn how to cope. Habituation works much in the same way your body naturally adapts to the motion of a boat against waves in the water. At first, you feel every bob and dip but over time, you hardly notice them as you remain steady on your feet.
- Gaze stabilization (eye-tracking): These exercises improve eye movement and control to relieve vision problems. Gaze-stabilization exercises involve focusing your vision on different targets while moving your head.
- Balance training: During balance training, you perform specific exercises designed to improve your stability. Doing so helps your vestibular system become more efficient at interpreting your body’s position in space (known as proprioception) and reduces your risk of falling.
Your ability to maintain your balance, visually follow a moving object, or get out of bed in the dark are all possible because of your vestibular system. This complex system takes cues from your eyes, muscles, joints, and inner ear to help you maintain awareness of your body’s relationship to physical objects in the world around you.
We use vestibular therapy to treat concussion symptoms that do not improve over time. These symptoms may include:
- Double vision
- Sensitivity to motion
- Difficulty with coordination.
But vestibular therapy is not limited to individuals with concussions. We also work with adults whose vestibular systems aren’t functioning well due to advanced age or other medical conditions.
What Can I Expect During Vestibular Therapy?
Vestibular therapy can ease everyday life by restoring your ability to pursue favorite activities. Our personalized approach focuses on your medical requirements and personal preferences, so that you can achieve the best possible outcome.
Here’s what to expect from vestibular therapy:
- Evaluation: We perform a comprehensive evaluation to learn more about the symptoms you are experiencing and how they are affecting you on a daily basis. Your evaluation may also include balance and vision testing using Neurocom® technologies.
- Education: Our vestibular therapy specialists help you understand which part of the vestibular system requires care and how therapy works. We also talk with you about ways to make therapy go more smoothly. This may include simplifying your daily schedule, so your brain isn’t working so hard, and limiting how much time you spend using electronic devices.
- Personalized treatment plan: We develop a personalized plan, taking into account your medical needs and recovery goals, and then tailoring treatments to help you achieve them. We always consider your comfort level and only make exercises more challenging when you feel you are ready.
- On-site therapy: We work with you one-on-one to complete a series of exercises specifically designed to strengthen balance or vision. These activities may include standing in a booth, secured by a harness, while you focus on a sequence of screen images. We may challenge your balance by having you walk on uneven surfaces while moving your head and eyes.
- Home exercises: We give you exercises to perform at home. These exercises, which may include simple eye or head movements, help keep your progress on track between appointments. You may be asked to repeat these exercises several times a day.
- Setting realistic expectations: Vestibular therapy can make a world of difference, but it takes time. Your symptoms may actually get worse before they get better. We help you set realistic expectations and stay motivated, so you can achieve the results you’re looking for.
What Vestibular Therapy Services Are Offered by Baptist Health?
Your vestibular system is responsible for taking in and processing brain signals that control balance and eye movements. When you undergo a mild brain injury – for example, a concussion – the vestibular system can have trouble processing these signals. You may experience double or bouncy vision or feel unsteady on your feet.
Our vestibular therapy program provides what you need to feel like yourself again. Highlights include:
- A certified vestibular therapist: Our vestibular therapy expert is a physical therapist with advanced training and certification in vestibular disorders. His or her experience in diagnosing and treating patients with a broad range of symptoms can benefit you in designing a treatment plan.
- Neurocom® technologies: We use the best available technologies, including the Neurocom® suite of vestibular-system testing and treatment devices. In fact, we are one of only a handful of programs in the Louisville area where these technologies are available.
- Being a trusted resource for other physicians: Physicians from outside Baptist Health regularly refer their patients to our vestibular therapy program. We work closely with referring physicians, providing regular progress reports, to give you and them a seamless treatment experience.
Are There Risks to Undergoing Vestibular Therapy?
Vestibular therapy is a proven means of restoring balance and reducing the possibility of falls. Implementing balance-rehabilitation therapy does involve small degrees of risk, however. This is because physical exercise that enhances stability in the long term can initially cause disorientation, as your body relearns safety in physical movement. This disorientation is typically mild, and does not bring on attacks of vertigo. The repetition of these exercises is what restores proper locomotive balance. At Baptist Health, we design our rehabilitation programs with your safety in mind.
How Do I Start Vestibular Therapy?
To begin vestibular therapy at Baptist Health, contact locations to make an appointment.
Next Steps with MyChart
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