Vestibular rehabilitation therapy – What are vestibular rehabilitation exercises?

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vestibular rehabilitation exercisesWhat is vestibular rehabilitation?

Vestibular rehabilitation is an exercise-based therapy provided by a vestibular physical therapist to regain balance and minimize dizziness-related problems.

What is the definition of dizziness?

Dizziness can be described as:

  • Tilting
  • Swaying
  • Floating
  • Spinning
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sensations of moving
  • Feelings of passing out
  • Feelings of instability
  • Wooziness (swimming feeling in the head)
  • Whirling (sensations known as vertigo)

These feelings or sensations can occur while standing still, lying down, or shifting positions. The signs may be continuous or episodic, lasting seconds, minutes, or hours.

What is the cause of dizziness?

Per year, over 10 million people seek medical attention for dizziness. It is the most common complaint in patients over the age of 75, but it can affect anybody.

Dizziness is usually not dangerous, but it can be a symptom of a mechanical problem. Dizziness can be caused by an inner ear condition, a drug side effect, a symptom of neck dysfunction, or a more severe illness such as a brain or heart problem.

Physiotherapy and Vestibular Rehabilitation

Are there Treatment Options?

Fortunately, a vestibular rehabilitation program offered by the Physiotherapist may improve. Treatment for vestibular conditions can differ depending on the diagnosis.

Vestibular rehabilitation is a drug-free approach that consists of complex movements designed to enhance equilibrium control, reduce dizziness/vertigo symptoms, and raise overall activity levels.

How do vestibular exercises work?

These activities aim to enhance one’s central or brain compensation for trauma or irregularities in the vestibular or balance system. The brain interprets input from the vestibular or balance system. When some part of this system is injured or abnormal, the brain must be retrained or conditioned to perceive the knowledge correctly. Vestibular exercises do little more but relax the vestibular apparatus. This stimulus generates data for the brain to analyze. 

The aim of performing these activities is to train the brain to accept and perceive this stimulus. Repeatedly doing these tasks will also help the brain to respond to unfamiliar stimuli. These exercises act in the same way as skaters or dancers do to avoid dizziness while spinning around quickly. Simply put, one must search out and avoid positions or scenarios that induce dizziness. Avoiding them would only delay one’s recovery.

Aims of exercises:

  1. To practice eye movement regardless of head movement.
  2. To practice balancing in everyday activities, focusing on enhancing eye coordination and muscle sense awareness.
  3. To practice head movements that cause dizziness.
  4. To get accustomed to moving about effortlessly in both daytime and darkness.
  5. In general, to facilitate the re-establishment of confidence in producing easy, relaxed, spontaneous motions.

Who benefits from vestibular rehabilitation?

Patients with dizziness, imbalance, vertigo, Meniere’s syndrome, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), neck-related dizziness, and migraines are the more common reasons for referral for vestibular rehabilitation therapy. Patients who have had a stroke or a brain injury and others who often collapse are also candidates.

Vestibular rehabilitation can help with the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Frequent falls
  • Vertigo/spinning
  • Neck tightness, stiffness and pain
  • Dizziness or blurry vision with head movements
  • Imbalance or the need to hold onto objects when walking
  • Generalized “dizziness, wooziness and foggy head” feelings

During your consultation, a physical therapist can assess your symptoms and go through your medical history. Your evaluation will include one of any of the following areas:

  • Gait (how you walk)
  • Visual stability and mobility
  • Balance and leg strength/flexibility
  • Neck mobility and neck and arm strength
  • Positional testing, which includes an inner ear examination

A scheme of treatment is created based on the results. Your recovery plan aims to correct any deficiencies that have been found, in essence, will increase your ability to perform daily tasks, reduce your chance of slipping, and, overall, improve your quality of life.

When it comes to vestibular rehabilitation therapy, what is the success rate?

Many times, vestibular rehabilitation therapy is the only therapy needed. Most times, it is part of the presurgery/post-surgery rehabilitation program. In most cases, as patients continue to do the techniques they have learned, their stability and dizziness conditions will improve dramatically or entirely disappear.

What do I expect from vestibular rehabilitation in terms of recovery and outcome?

The below are the expected vestibular rehabilitation outcomes:


  • Improved balance
  • Increased body strength
  • Decreased risk of falling
  • A decrease in dizziness symptoms
  • Improved neck motion, reduced symptoms
  • Improved ability to stabilize vision/gaze
  • Return to a previous state of movement or work.
  • Increase self-assurance in the ability to maintain balance

At Kanata Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Clinic, you will be seen by a Physiotherapist trained explicitly in vestibular rehabilitation. You can expect to see improvement in your symptoms within 6 to 8 weeks, or sooner, depending on your specific condition. 

Your Physiotherapist will always be in contact with your referring physician or specialist to update them on your progress.

To book an appointment with a physiotherapist specializing in the assessment and treatment of vertigo, dizziness, balance problems, BPPV, or any other inner ear condition, please call and request an appointment for Vestibular Rehabilitation.

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