What is Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT)?

Understanding Vestibular Rehabilitation and Treatment

Understanding the types and uses of vestibular rehabilitation therapy can help you to better serve patients. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a type of physical therapy used to alleviate problems caused by vestibular (inner ear) disorders such as vertigo, dizziness, gaze instability, imbalance, and falls. VRT is executed using a customized exercise plan based on patients’ individual needs, their pain level, and any other medical conditions they may be experiencing. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy alleviates both primary and secondary symptoms of vestibular disorders by promoting compensation of patients’ other senses, leading to recovery.

In addition, VRT is an exercise-based program that addresses the individual problems of each patient, which are identified during a preliminary comprehensive clinical exam. This exam is integral to designing VRT that is best suited for each patient’s needs. There are three main types of VRT—habituation exercise, gaze stabilization exercise, and balance training exercise—and a patient’s particular disorder and symptoms will inform which type of therapy is needed. Keep reading to learn more about each of these types of therapy!

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Habituation Exercise

Habituation exercises are VRT exercises that are used to treat dizziness. Dizziness in vestibular disorder patients is caused by specific movements or visual stimuli the patients encounter. These types of VRT exercises are recommended for patients who become dizzy from moving their head, bending over, or any other movement.

Habituation exercises are also used for patients who become dizzy from various visual stimuli such as watching TV, bright or busy places, or walking over patterned or shiny floors. These habituation exercises are meant to reduce dizziness through repetition of specific movements or visual stimuli, which have been identified as causing dizziness in the patient being treated. After continued exposure to these specific movements, the brain becomes trained to ignore abnormal signals, thus decreasing dizziness in patients.

Gaze Stabilization Exercise

Gaze stabilization exercises are VRT exercises that are used to improve patients’ control of their eye movements. Some patients with vestibular disorders experience a destabilization of their vision during head movement, which these exercises aim to treat. These VRT exercises are best for patients whose vision bounces around when trying to read, identify objects, or focus their vision, especially during movement. There are specific eye and head exercises used to promote gaze stability depending on the patient’s disorder type and severity of their symptoms.

Balance Training Exercise

Balance training exercises improve patients’ steadiness so they can execute their daily activities safely and successfully. Clinicians use these VRT exercises to improve balance, and the specific exercises prescribed are based on each patient’s cause of imbalance. These exercises can reduce fall risk and environmental barriers such as uneven ground, which may pose a threat to patients with imbalance and unsteadiness caused by a vestibular disorder.

Regardless of the type of exercises assigned, vestibular rehabilitation is executed as outpatient therapy. VRT is meant to establish exercises that are to be continued when the patient is at home for continued rehabilitation.

Learn More About Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

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