The vestibular system is a sensory system in our inner ear that is responsible for determining motion, spatial awareness and the position of the head. The vestibular system stems from our cochlea of the inner ear and consists of multiple chambers that detect angular and linear acceleration. Problems with your vestibular system arise from the loosening of the crystals in these vestibular chambers and the unwelcome movement of them through the canals. Issues with your vestibular system can have a great impact on your balance, dizziness and strength of your body.
Symptoms of vestibular issues include:
- Vertigo (spinning sensation)
- Lack of balance
- Blurred vision
- General dizziness
- Nystagmus – involuntary eye movement
Vestibular treatment is amained at:
- Reducing dizziness
- Increasing spatial awareness
- Improving your balance
- Reduce your risk of falling
- Increasing your body strength
- Increasing your ability to stabilise your vision
What happens during a vestibular therapy appointment?
Screening – Our physiotherapists first need to screen to ensure that the vestibular issue is caused by your peripheral system (involving the inner ear and neck) and not your central nervous system (involving the brainstem and cerebellum). Central nervous system conditions that are causing the above symptoms cannot be treated by a physiotherapist and may require further scans and specialist examination. Peripheral nervous system vestibular conditions are generally related to irregularities in the vestibular canal or the cervical spine and can be determined and treated by physiotherapists.
Assessment – The main assessment used in vestibular appointments is the Dix-Hallpike assessment which is a series of movement tests done to determine which canal is affecting your symptoms, as well as the severity of your vestibular issue. If a positive outcome is derived from the test, then treatment can commence. If a negative outcome is derived from the test, then further assessment based on the outcome is required with the physiotherapist.
Treatment– Vestibular treatment is aimed at repositioning the loose crystals of the vestibular system back to their correct position. Epley’s manoeuvre is one of the main treatment techniques our physiotherapists use to reposition these crystals. This manoeuvre involves precise angles and movement of your head. To ensure the crystals remain in the correct position, home exercise programs are an important part of the treatment and are customised to your specific vestibular state.