What is your vestibular system?
The vestibular system is the name given to part of your inner ear which is responsible for providing your brain with information about motion, head position and where your body is in relation to space. It essentially keeps us balanced and steady, stabilises our head and body as we move and also works closely with our eyes to help stabilise our gaze as we move our head. When your vestibular system isn’t functioning as it should, it can really cause havoc and you will likely experience lots of unpleasant symptoms.
What are symptoms of a dysfunctional vestibular system?
In most cases you may experience:
- Feeling off balance, unable to walk straight
- Visual disturbances
Due to the symptoms above you may also as a result experience:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Reduced concentration
- Anxiety and depression are also common consequences of having a vestibular disorder to the impact on daily living and quality of life.
What are common conditions affecting the vestibular system?
• Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – this is the most common cause of vertigo.
– Benign: non-dangerous or likely to cause lasting effects
– Paroxysmal: rapid onset, reaches a peak then slowly goes away
– Positional: triggered by changes in head position
– Vertigo: abnormal sensation of movement- world or self
- Often things like getting in and out bed, rolling over in bed, washing your hair in shower, bending over in garden can trigger this.
- In short, BPPV is a result of small crystals of calcium carbonate that have fallen off from their usual ‘home’ and drift into the small semi-circular canals of your inner ear causing abnormal stimulation of nerve endings in your ear.
- The good news?… This condition is very treatable using particle re-positioning maneuvers.
- BPPV can return at any stage with experts having no known reason why this happens. It is important that you don’t limit your normal activities in fear of this returning as there is nothing that can be done to stop recurrence.
• Vestibular Hypofunction
– Vestibular: inner ear balance system
– Hypofunction: not functioning at 100%, i.e. underperforming so not sending correct balance signals to your brain.
• Can occur to one or both sides and can be complete or partial.
• Causes include damage to the nerve or balance organs themselves or underlying infections and head injuries.
What is Vestibular Physio?
In vestibular physio we aim to assess the underlying cause of your symptom with thorough questioning. Once we know more about your symptoms, we will run you through some special testing. These tests have a high chance of bringing on your symptoms, which can be unpleasant. However, this allows us to choose the best treatment option and once treated your symptoms can significantly reduce, or completely resolve!
Treatment will likely involve giving you exercises to help with your gaze stability, balance impairment and overall movement. We will give you advice and education on how to pace yourself at home, modify day to day activities and may speak to you about ‘habituation’ – another technique that can help you live day to day life with symptoms that may not be treatable.