Vestibular Rehabilitation

What Is The Vestibular System?

The vestibular system is responsible for our sense of balance, and all together it helps us process the current position that we are in, and how that position changes as we move. It is made up of small structures located within the inner ear, and together with our vision and certain parts of the brain, helps to control how our head and body is oriented in space. When this system is not functioning properly, we can feel symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, visual changes, hearing changes, more frequent falls, loss of balance, or a feeling that the room is spinning. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, getting an assessment from your physiotherapist is a great place to start. Vestibular rehabilitation is assessment, diagnosis, and re-training of the vestibular, or balance, system. There are a number of potential reasons your symptoms could be occurring, so an initial assessment is necessary to better understand why.

GPR - Global Postural Re-education, doctor holding patient's head
A Modern rehabilitation physiotherapy worker with senior client

What Does Vestibular Rehabilitation Involve?

The first step is a vestibular assessment. A vestibular assessment involves a detailed history of your symptoms and other medical background, visual testing, neurological screening, balance testing, and physical movements done by your physiotherapist. All of this will determine the treatment options and/or the next steps you should take if a referral is necessary. After your initial assessment, you and your physiotherapist will establish a care plan with the goal of addressing the root cause of your symptoms. This care plan can include any combination of visual exercises, specific and routine movement patterns, light aerobic exercise, and balance training. The components involved in your plan will depend entirely on your assessment and the findings of your physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will conduct re-assessments on an ongoing basis to track changes and to adapt your care plan as needed.

Why Should I Start A Vestibular Rehabilitation Plan?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it is very important to have a vestibular assessment. Firstly, it is important to rule out other medical conditions. Symptoms such as dizziness, changes in vision, frequent falls or fainting can also be associated with more serious conditions that can escalate if not addressed quickly. Secondly, having these symptoms for a prolonged period of time can make functioning through your daily tasks extremely difficult. Some vestibular conditions can be solved in just a few sessions, so rather than living with your symptoms for a long period of time, working with a professional can help get you back to your daily tasks quickly.

omen receiving the head of the massage clinic
Chinese woman massage therapist giving a treatment to an attractive blond client on massage table in a bright medical office

How Long Does Vestibular Rehabilitation Take?

Generally, the assessments are quite long, because a detailed assessment is necessary in order to rule out more serious causes of your symptoms. Afterwards, treatment length varies depending on your symptoms, condition, and commitment to your home program. Some vestibular issues are quite quick to solve, and can be taken care of in 2-3 sessions, while others involve more prolonged and regular training to see significant changes. Additionally, depending on your symptoms, referral to another healthcare provider might be necessary in order to confirm/further examine what might be causing your symptoms.

At First Line Physiotherapy, vestibular rehabilitation is considered to be a type of physiotherapy assessment and treatment. If you have any other questions about how a physiotherapist can help you on your running or walking journey, or would like help in deciding if physiotherapy and vestibular rehabilitation would be right for you, please contact us, and a team member would be happy to assist you.