In support of Balance Awareness Week, we are sharing important information on vestibular and balance disorders, provided in conjunction with the Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA).
Balance disorders are an invisible chronic illness– invisible because they can’t be seen by the casual observer and chronic because they may or may not get better. They are difficult to diagnose and treat, and because others can’t “see” the outward signs they may assume the patient is overreacting or faking their symptoms.
Unfortunately, for some people, it may take months or years before being properly diagnosed with a vestibular disorder. It is important to visit an ENT or Neurologist if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of dizziness or imbalance to determine the cause of the condition.
Once diagnosed with a vestibular disorder, it’s time to tackle your symptoms and learn how to manage them. This is a good time to ask your doctor about vestibular therapy or VRT.
Managing through Exercise
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) has consistently been shown to be an important part of the management of these disorders. A literature review of numerous studies on the effectiveness of VRT by UTMB (2000) shows most patients improve by 70-80% with VRT.
However, VRT is not a quick fix and often patients will feel worse before they begin to feel better. It is an exercise-based program designed to promote changes within the central nervous system and compensate for inner ear deficits. People with vestibular or balance issues tend to avoid doing activities that trigger their symptoms, but this is the opposite of what they should do. You need to use your vestibular system and challenge it, in order to improve.
In addition to vestibular therapy, low-impact exercise routines using Tai Chi, pilates mat exercises, or the Wii video game with Balance Board, can help improve balance. We encourage anyone to use these exercises to improve and maintain their balance as they age.