Vestibular Rehabilitation

What is Vestibular Rehabilitation?

Vestibular rehabilitation is an exercise-based program, designed by a specialized physical therapist, to improve balance and reduce dizziness-related problems.

The evaluation of patient’s symptoms, review medical history and identify any  balance problems in gait, neck motion, visual stability, as well as the examination other potential problem areas. Based on the findings, a plan of care is developed. The goal of the treatment plan is to improve any deficits that were identified. This, in turn, will improve the patient’s ability to function in activities of everyday living, reduce risk for falling, and ultimately, improve patient’s quality of life.

Patients who are typically referred for vestibular rehabilitation therapy are those diagnosed with dizziness, imbalance, vertigo, Meniere’s syndrome, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), neck-related dizziness and migraines. Other candidates are patients who have had a stroke or brain injury or who frequently fall.

Vestibular Disorders

  • An estimated 20% of the general population is affected by a vestibular disorder.1
  • At least half of the overall United States population is affected by a balance or vestibular disorder sometime during their lives.2
  • Approximately 15 out of every 1000 individuals consult their family physician each year with complaints of vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance; half the individuals over the age of 65 will develop positional vertigo.3
  • Of all falls suffered by the elderly, 50% are reported to be the result of vestibular problems.4
  • In approximately 15% of vestibular patients, the cause cannot be recognized.1
  • Traditional vestibular function tests fail to establish a localizing diagnosis that can account for a patient’s symptoms in a reported 30% to 50% of cases.5
  • Inner ear problems may not be amenable to surgical treatment, and pharmacological treatment of these conditions with vestibular suppressants often retards the recovery process.3
  • Vestibular dysfunction is a prominent part of balance disorders, particularly in the elderly, and is a significant source of morbidity.6

  • References:

    1. University of Iowa Health Care. Comprehensive management of vestibular disorders. Currents: Spring 2002, Vol 3, No 2. Accessed Mar 2003.
    2. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. March 1997.
    3. Duke University Medical Center, Dept of Physical & Occupational Therapy.Vestibular Rehabilitation Program. Accessed Mar 2003.
    4. Biology Seminar presented to NASA headquarters by Dr. James F. Battey, Director, National Institute on Deafness; June 1998.
    5. Hain TC (1995). Treatment of vertigo. The Neurologist; 1:125-33.
    6. Ator GA. University of Kansas Department of Otolaryngology Division of Otology Talk: Vertigo – Evaluation and Treatment in the Elderly. Accessed Mar 2003.