Vestibular rehabilitation

Vestibular rehabilitation is performed by a physical therapist. Etymology: (1903) ancient Greek φύσις, phýsis (nature) and θεραπεία, therapeía, (therapy).

Dizziness and vertigo can affect anyone. In fact, 15 to 35% of people will be affected by such symptoms during their lifetime. They can be caused by different factors, from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) to vestibular neuronitis or a recent impact or accident.

Vestibular rehabilitation is the discipline that treats these disorders to reduce the symptoms’ severity and allow a safe return to work.

If you suffer from vertigo or loss of balance, please don’t ignore the symptoms and consult a health care professional.

What is vestibular rehabilitation, as addressed in physiotherapy?

Vestibular rehabilitation is a specialized field of physiotherapy. It aims to evaluate and treat balance problems, vertigo or dizziness related to the vestibular system. Problems can come from peripheral (internal organ) or central (different sections of the brain) sources.

The vestibule or vestibular system is located in the inner ear, in each ear. It consists of three semicircular canals, two small pouch-like organs (utricle and saccule) and nerves. It plays an essential role in the body’s movement and balance in space. It detects the movements of the head in space and sends these signals to the brain.

A dysfunction of this system causes the appearance of various symptoms, the main ones being dizziness, loss of balance, visual problems and nausea.

Physiotherapy can greatly help and improve the quality of life of people suffering from balance issues or other symptoms that may arise following an infection.

Our goal is to identify and provide appropriate treatment for the system involved in the condition, to reduce or eliminate symptoms, to optimize recovery and rehabilitation, and to ensure a safe and sustainable return to the activities disturbed by the condition.

What is the training required to practice vestibular rehabilitation?

Physiotherapists are the specialists who treat balance disorders and vertigo. In order to practice vestibular rehabilitation, therapists need to be trained in vestibular therapy.

Vestibular rehabilitation is a team effort. The physiotherapist works closely with doctors and specialists (ENT, neurologists) throughout the treatment.

What is the purpose of vestibular rehabilitation?

Vestibular rehabilitation is used with people who are affected by vertigo, balance disorders or dizziness.

Different conditions can be treated in vestibular rehabilitation. The most common is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which is characterized by very brief and intense symptoms.

It is often triggered by a movement or change in the position of the head (for example, when lying down or standing up) and is caused by the displacement of particles within the canals of the vestibular system.

Here are some conditions treated in vestibular rehabilitation

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • Neuronitis
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Vestibular migraine
  • Unilateral or bilateral peripheral lesions
  • Ear or brain surgery
  • After a stroke, if the person shows disorders of the vestibular system
  • Impact/Trauma

If you feel like everything is spinning around you, have regular migraines, or lose your balance when in motion or at rest, you may be suffering from a disorder of the vestibular system. Make an appointment with your doctor or directly with one of our physiotherapists in vestibular rehabilitation.

Vertigo, dizziness, loss of balance: the symptoms that should alert you

As we have seen, many symptoms can appear in case of a vestibular system disorder. You should be aware of their appearance, and act accordingly.

  • Dizziness

Dizziness often gives you the impression of being drunk or on a boat, because of the feeling of being unstable. Unlike vertigo, dizziness makes you feel like the floor is moving, hence the comparison to a boat. It is a disruption of the sense of spatial orientation.

Dizziness often comes with difficulty in concentrating on an activity or object because of the blurred vision. These episodes are usually brief in duration and can be caused by a number of factors.

  • Vertigo

Unlike dizziness, vertigo makes you feel as if everything is spinning. You may feel like the room is spinning, or that you are spinning around, like a high sensation ride. You may also experience a buzzing in your ears, nausea, or vomiting.

Vertigo can occur quite frequently (several times a day). It can be related to the brain or the inner ear.

The causes of vertigo and dizziness are different, and so are their treatments.

  • Loss of balance

A loss of balance means difficulty in standing, either in a static position or when moving. When experiencing loss of balance, you may feel the need to sit down.

Assessment, follow-up and exercises: how do you treat a vestibular disorder and how does a session of vestibular rehabilitation work?

When experiencing symptoms associated with vestibular system disorders, it is essential to consult a health care professional as soon as possible.

You can discuss this with your doctor or make an appointment directly with a physiotherapist who specializes in vestibular rehabilitation.

This discipline is available as a direct treatment, which means that you do not need a prescription to consult.

However, if the symptoms begin very intensely, with no previous history, it may be appropriate to visit a doctor first.

The physiotherapy treatment always starts with an evaluation of the vestibular system through different tests. The goal is to determine the origin and cause of the symptoms, and to what extent they affect your daily life.

We also know how worrying these symptoms can be when they first appear. This is why the therapist will reassure the patient and establish a relationship of trust.

The goal of the evaluation is to set up a treatment plan adapted to your condition, although it may change over time, depending on your needs and the evolution of your symptoms.

Physiotherapy treatment aims to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, improve balance and optimize functional recovery (visual acuity, balance).

A treatment plan could include safe and painless mobilizations, manual techniques, recovery and habituation exercises, or even static or dynamic exercises for balance.

How many sessions will you need?

Treatment plans vary from one individual to another, so it is difficult to give a specific number of sessions required. Various factors come into play, including your condition, the evolution of your disorder during treatment, as well as your experience with physiotherapy and in general

How can you make an appointment at one of our CMI clinics in Montreal and surrounding areas?

If you suffer from loss of balance, vertigo when moving your head, or any other symptom associated with vestibular system disorders, make an appointment directly with one of our physiotherapists on our website.

We will get back to you quickly, and once your evaluation is complete, your therapist will be able to set up a treatment plan to reduce your symptoms and improve your functional abilities.

The cost of a physiotherapy session is not covered by the RAMQ.

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