In life, balance is tricky. We try to balance our budget, eat a balanced diet and balance our work lives with our home lives. Sometimes, every little thing can feel like a tightrope walk. Now, imagine trying to balance all that balancing when you have a physical issue with dizziness, vertigo or even – you guessed it – imbalance. As you might imagine, having just one of these issues can make it tough to concentrate, exercise and participate in daily activities. Fortunately, help is available in the form of vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT). VRT works towards restoring normal or improved vestibular system function to help reduce symptoms with daily life.
“VRT is an exercise-based program designed to reduce vertigo and dizziness, improve gaze stability and decrease risk of falls,” Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation physical therapist and VRT specialist Christi Broyles said. “First, though, we have to identify the root of the problem. Vestibular dysfunction can have several potential causes. Issues such as head injuries, viral infections, genetic factors, environmental factors or just simple aging all can lead to vestibular dysfunction. Determining the cause is step one. This typically is done through a multi-disciplinary approach, which may include a person’s primary care physician and a physical therapist. A neurologist, an ear, nose and throat physician (ENT), and an audiologist may be consulted, but it may not be necessary for each person to see all specialists in order for us to successfully treat them” she added. “From there we can generate an appropriate treatment plan for each patient,” says Broyles.
Broyles says, once treatment begins, VRT specialists design a customized program for each patient based on his or her specific triggers and symptoms. “Our VRT program is appropriate for people who are experiencing dizziness, imbalance or vertigo, but also for people who experience very specific issues such as difficulty feeling steady when walking in busy environments, walking on patterned floors or feelings of nausea caused by certain body movements,” Broyles said. “Treatment usually includes exercises to improve balance and gaze stability, and to resolve vertigo and spinning episodes. The exercises we do in the clinic and the exercises we give patients to do at home are meant to provoke slight dizziness in order to stimulate the vestibular system. This helps improve balance and the ability to focus, allowing the patient to return to his or her normal level of function,” she explained.
“Because certain motions can trigger their symptoms or make their symptoms worse, people with vestibular disorders often adopt sedentary lifestyles,” Broyles said. “Of course, being inactive can lead to weight gain, reduced muscle strength and stamina, increased joint stiffness, and other health issues, including depression. By participating in VRT, patients have the opportunity to live a more active life, which could help improve their overall health,” she said. “For this reason, VRT includes a home exercise component that’s designed to help patients achieve their rehabilitation goals. The at-home exercises resemble our clinic exercises, and are easy-to-learn, but the key for patients is remembering to make those exercises part of their daily routines in order to achieve the best-possible outcome,” she added.
For more information about VRT or to schedule an appointment, call Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation at 865-238-6118 or toll-free at 844-355-3001.