October is National Physical Therapist Month, a time to inform the community of the benefits of physical therapy. Physical therapists can provide help for people with many different problems. One area of expertise that a physical therapist can specialize in is the treatment of dizziness, vertigo or imbalance.
Vestibular issues, including dizziness, vertigo and decreased balance, have been around for more than 50 years. Vestibular rehab therapy (VRT) provided by a physical therapist has been gaining a lot of attention and is being utilized to help people get relief from their symptoms.
Vertigo/dizziness and imbalance are the second most common complaints heard in the doctor’s office. About 1 in 3 people older than 65, and half of those older than 80, will experience a minimum of one fall, which may or may not have consequences, including fracture of the hip and/or another bone.
The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and is the sensory organ for spatial orientation, head movement and hearing. A conflict within the inner ear may be caused by illness, infection, trauma or the natural aging process.
Physical therapists use VRT to help reduce fall risk by individualizing each person’s program, which may include trunk/lower extremity strengthening, balancing activities, walking patterns and general mobility.
VRT consist of two categories, which include dizziness/vertigo/motion intolerance and imbalance/unsteadiness. Therapy can also be divided into four sections:
• Repositioning maneuvers to help with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
• Vestibular rehab to help patients who have severe symptoms and require supervision.
• Balance re-training to help people who have unsteadiness.
• Exercises for the vestibular system that help re-program the brain.
The primary goal of the balance system is safety and function. The balance system comprises three systems: vestibular, visual and somatosensory system. Poor balance happens when one or more of these systems are compromised. Balance and retraining programs help to educate the individual in fall-prevention strategies, improve balance and coordination and help encourage participation in community activities.
Prevention is a key factor to help reduce the risk for falling. Some risk factors associated with an increased risk of falling include being older, difficulty with balance/walking, poor vision, leg or trunk weakness, pre-existing medical conditions, taking more than four medications at one time, use of an assistive device and having a history of falls.
Having vertigo or an imbalance issue can limit your activity level both in the home and in the community. VRT helps to retrain the brain and adjust the imbalance to allow you to become more active and participate in the activities you enjoy.
Aquacare Physical Therapy has balance/vestibular physical therapists trained to evaluate people with dizziness, vertigo and imbalance who will determine a proper course of treatment. For more information about Aquacare Physical Therapy, our balance and vestibular program, or to schedule a free 30-minute screening to determine if you are a candidate for our balance/vestibular program, contact us in Millville at (302) 539-3110, Millsboro at (302) 945-4250, Lewes at (302) 945-0200 or Seaford at (302) 536-1774.
Nicole Evans is a balance/vestibular therapist at Aquacare Physical Therapy of Millville.