When the vestibular / inner ear organs are damaged with disease or injury, the brain can no longer rely on them for accurate information about equilibrium and motion, often resulting in dizziness, vertigo, balance problems, and other symptoms. Many people are able to recover from these symptoms on their own after a few weeks of normal activity because the brain has adapted with a process called vestibular compensation.
However, if the vestibular compensation process is not successful, a person’s ability to maintain posture and coordinate balance may become overly dependent on input from the eyes (vision) and muscles and joints (proprioception). In addition, the person may develop new patterns of head and body movement in an attempt to avoid dizziness and nausea. For example, a person with a vestibular disorder might adopt an exaggerated hip sway as a method of balancing, swivel the entire body rather than just the head when turning to look at something, or always look down at the floor to avoid what appears to be a confusing swirl of activity. Unfortunately, these strategies can make vestibular compensation even more difficult, worsening symptoms and often causing headache, muscle tension, and fatigue.
The goal of Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is to retrain the brain to recognise and process signals from the vestibular system in coordination with vision and proprioception. This often involves exposing the balance system to movements that provoke symptoms.
We can refer people onto Audio-vestibular physicians with a specialist interest in rehabilitation.