What is the Vestibular System?

The vestibular system tells you where your head is in space; it tells you what direction your head is going and how fast it is moving. If there is an issue with this system you may feel unsteady or off balance, the room may spin or you might feel like you’re spinning, or your vision may be blurry. These symptoms may occur when you change position, move your head quickly, roll over in bed, look up or down, walk in a busy environment, or move from sitting to standing.

If you are experiencing any of this, physical therapy interventions can help. There are several disorders of the vestibular system that are treated with physical therapy exercises, positional maneuvers, and/or manual techniques.

The most common vestibular condition is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). With BPPV, the room usually spins for a minute or less when you change position. Most often, people experience this with turning over in bed, moving from sitting to lying down, or getting up from bed. This condition is treated with positional maneuvers guided by a physical therapist. There are various maneuvers for different types of BPPV. It is important to do the maneuvers under the guidance of a physical therapist in order to use the most appropriate maneuver for your specific condition.

Another common condition is a unilateral vestibulopathy. With this condition a viral or bacterial infection impacts one side of the vestibular system. People with this condition often feel unsteady, have difficulty reading because the words are blurry or the lines jump, feel a whoosh with head movements, are frequently nauseous, or a have fullness in their head and/or ears. There are various physical therapy exercises that can help retrain the vestibular system and treat all these symptoms.

In other cases, musculoskeletal conditions of the neck can contribute to feelings of disequilibrium or a fullness in your head. Usually patients with this condition also have neck pain, headaches, or limited motion with turning their head. In physical therapy sessions, we will be using exercises and manual therapy techniques to address these limitations.

You can also get vertigo and other vestibular symptoms after you have had a concussion, a stroke, or another brain injury. Physical therapy exercises can also help with these conditions.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call the clinic closest to you to schedule an appointment.

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