Treating Dizziness Without Medication

Some causes of dizziness, vertigo and imbalance can be treated by physical therapy (PT) alone. This type of PT is called Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT), and it has been proven effective through decades of scientific research and positive patient outcomes. However, only a minority of patients with dizziness benefit from VRT, so it is quite important to first determine the underlying cause of dizziness to assess whether VRT is the most appropriate intervention.

VRT can treat vestibular (balance) system disorders caused by:

  • A weak or damaged inner ear nerve
  • Cervicogenic (neck-related) dizziness
  • Imbalance with risk of falls due to visual motion sensitivity
  • Neuropathy (reduced sensation in the feet)
  • Age-related imbalance (often with a fear of falling)
  • Multiple unrelated factors together causing imbalance

The focus of VRT is not particularly related to your physical strength or endurance, but on the sensory brain and inner ear systems which control your balance. The brain uses vision, vestibular (inner ear) and proprioception (your sense of where your limbs are in space) to allow you to move safely and without falling.

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy helps the brain adapt to any weaknesses in these three systems and improves the use of these systems to decrease dizziness and improve balance and stability.

Vestibular rehabilitation therapy is a highly specialized area of physical therapy, requiring specific and extensive training in the field beyond physical therapy school. Most non-VRT therapists treat dizziness sporadically or not at all. Vestibular therapists need additional specialized training to understand balance disorders and to stay current in this fast-developing area of PT.

A typical patient is seen once a week for one to two months. After an examination and diagnosis of the cause of dizziness, a home exercise program is designed to help with the specific symptoms. Once VRT is concluded, it is important to continue the program to maintain its benefits.

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