Physical Therapy for Common Vestibular Problems

In our last blog we talked about the structure of the vestibular system. Today, we’re going to talk about two common vestibular disorders and how physical therapy can help!

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV is characterized by sudden onset, vertigo of a short duration. Vertigo is defined as an illusion of movement. Patients with vertigo often report feelings of spinning or tilting. BPPV occurs when crystals from the otolith organs get dislodged from their gelatinous mass. The dislodged crystal moves around a semicircular canal. The crystal disrupts the signal to the brain. Thus, the feeling of moving though the body is still.

Vertigo symptoms are often provoked by rolling in bed or changing position. For BPPV, vertigo lasts only a few seconds.

Physical therapy treatment for BPPV involves repositioning the crystals into the gelatinous mass. Two common treatment techniques are the Epley maneuver and the horizontal roll. The chosen technique depends where the  crystal is located. There is an excellent prognosis after a repositioning maneuver. In fact, there is an 87% success rate after 1st repositioning and 90-93% after the 2nd maneuver.

Unilateral Vestibular Hypofunction

Unilateral vestibular hypofunction is due to a functional decrease in vestibular function. Some common causes are neuritis, labyrinthitis and acoustic neuromas.

The presentation for vestibular hypofunction changes if the issue is acute versus chronic. People with newer onset hypofunction experience intense, episodic vertigo. This type of vertigo does not necessarily occur with position change. In addition, acute patients may experience nausea. Acute unilateral hypofunction can also cause trouble stabilizing gaze. Gaze instability makes the world look as if it is bouncing and greatly affects balance. Further, acute patients often experience hearing loss. However, chronic unilateral hypofunction causes vertigo with head turning. Chronic patients also experience gaze instability and fatigue.

Physical therapy treatment encompasses gaze and postural stability exercises. The prognosis for unilateral vestibular hypofunction is generally good. Patients usually see recovery within 3 weeks to 6 months.

Contact Us!

Postural stability exercise for unilateral hypofunction

Contact us if you are experience vertigo and want to try physical therapy. Our PTA, Ryan, is experienced with treating vestibular dysfunction. There is no need to get a doctor’s prescription before coming. In fact, New Jersey has direct access that can get you in for evaluation without you having to see a doctor. In short, calling us directly can end up saving you both time and money!

Call us to schedule an evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy or check us out on Instagram!