The vestibular system is an extremely complex and important sensory system that gathers and processes information from three main inputs: 1. the vestibular labyrinth located in the inner ear which senses our head movement/position relative to gravity, 2. our visual system, and 3. the somatosensory system, information carried back to the brain from our muscles and joints. The brain processes and coordinates all this information to give us a sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance. It is a fascinating, but very complex mechanical and neurological system!
Vestibular disorders arise from problems in any of these areas of this complex network. The most common symptoms are dizziness and vertigo, imbalance, blurry vision, motion sensitivity and nausea, but may also include symptoms of poor concentration, decreased energy levels and social anxiety. Disorders are often traumatic in origin, caused by such things as motor vehicle accidents, falls, contact sports, and blows to the head. In these cases tiny crystals smaller than grains of sand are dislodged into the inner ear canals and cause abnormal messages to be sent into the processing area of the brain. Examples of more insidious sources of vestibular problems would be infections, aging, medications, brain-related problems, or byproducts of other diseases or injuries.
Vestibular rehabilitation utilizes special corrective techniques for the vestibular apparatus to relocate the dislodged crystals and exercises to maximize the brain’s compensation for vestibular dysfunction. While some disorders can completely fixed within 1 or 2 treatments, others require time and exercises to improve. In order of us to determine how to best help identify the source of dysfunction, we must do a detailed assessment to determine the nature of the disorder.