Vestibular Rehab: What It Is and How You’ll Benefit

Vestibular rehabilitation is needed more often than you think. In fact, an estimated 35.4% of adults over 40 have balance impairment. As a result, an estimated 60 million doctor visits each year are due to patients who complain about dizziness.

However, dizziness isn’t the only reason you might need vestibular rehab. 

While treating the symptom of dizziness is a quick fix, it’s more difficult to rehab the underlying issue if you let it drag on. Instead of waiting, it’s important to get the help you need immediately.

Need physical therapy for vertigo or recurring dizziness? Keep reading to learn all about vestibular rehab and how it can help!

What Is Vestibular Rehab?

The body’s overall sense of balance depends on multiple systems working together at once. This cohesion allows the human body and vision to create stability. In order for us to maintain proper balance, our bodies need:

  • Accurate sensory information
  • Our brains to properly understand and respond to that information
  • For our muscles to respond correctly in turn

We receive sensory information from three different systems: the visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems. 

The visual system tells the brain about our environment, including how our body related to the horizon. This occurs whether we’re still or moving. 

The somatosensory system, on the other hand, is sensitive to:

  • Stress
  • Vibration
  • Pressure
  • Touch to the muscles, tendons, joints, and skin

These sensitivities help the brain understand how the body is positioned. 

The vestibular system senses head movement while keeping our eyes focused. Organs within the inner ear also tell the brain when we move or reposition or head. 

Together, these three systems keep the brain informed. Then, our brains use this information to control our balance, depending on the situation and position we’re in. Our bodies also use previous experiences to determine our sense of balance. 

Once the brain understands this information, it sends messages to the eyes and other parts of the body. These messages help us move in ways that will help us maintain our balance.

Vestibular rehab is an exercise-based program that helps improve our balance. These exercises can also help reduce issues we’re experiencing that are related to dizziness. 

Feeling More Than “Dizzy”

While dizziness is one reason patients sometimes need vestibular therapy, dizziness is often described in different ways. You might also feel:

  • Unsteady
  • Woozy
  • Lightheaded
  • Like you’re about to pass out
  • As if you’re moving
  • Like you’re spinning, floating, swaying, or twirling
  • Vertigo

These sensations can occur whether you’re lying down, standing still, or moving from one position to the next. You might experience these sensations constantly or throughout the day in short episodes. 

So what causes these sensations?

Often, these symptoms indicate a mechanical problem. For example, you might have an inner ear disorder. These sensations are also a side effect of certain medications and an indication of neck dysfunction. 

However, it could also be the result of a more serious problem, such as a heart or brain issue. 

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the underlying cause. 

What Can a Therapist Do?

With vestibular physical therapy, you’ll learn how well your body uses your visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems to maintain balance. If you regularly feel dizzy, off-balance, or fall often, a physical therapist will study how your body reacts.

For example, a physical therapist will look at your problems with walking and balance. Then, they’ll conduct a fall-risk assessment. Sometimes, these issues are related to inner ear problems, such as positional vertigo.

Then, they’ll instruct you through a series of exercises that can help address the problem.

They’ll also tailor a treatment plan that will help you meet specific goals, such as improving your balance. Your treatment plan will address the specific problems you’re experiencing, whether it’s balance or dizziness. 

A therapist can also complete a home safety assessment to determine the environmental challenges you face at home. 

Through these exercises, your body will learn how to use your visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems properly. As a result, you’ll learn how to maintain your balance and keep from falling.

With vestibular physical therapy, you’ll have a physical therapist who understands your specific needs and goals. Your physical therapist may also recommend you see a doctor for further testing if needed. 

Who Benefits from Vestibular Rehabilitation? 

There are a number of reasons you might require vestibular physical therapy, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Imbalance
  • Vertigo
  • Meniere’s syndrome
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
  • Neck-related dizziness
  • Migraines

A doctor might also refer you for vestibular rehab if you recently had a stroke, brain injury, or fall frequently. 

Patients who recently received a concussion can benefit from vestibular rehab as well. According to this study, vestibular rehabilitation can help reduce dizziness, improve gait, and improve balance function after a concussion.

Undergoing vestibular rehabilitation can also help with:

  • Dizziness/blurred vision when you move your head
  • Neck stiffness, pain, or tightness
  • Imbalance when you walk
  • Headaches
  • Frequent falls
  • Vertigo/spinning

If you experience these symptoms, speak with a doctor to determine if vestibular rehab is right for you. 

Your First Appointment

During your initial appointment, your physical therapist will evaluate your system. They’ll also review your medical history. During this appointment, the physical therapist may also study your:

  • Balance
  • Leg strength and flexibility
  • Gait
  • Visual mobility and stability
  • Neck and arm strength and mobility
  • Positional testing (which can include an inner ear exam)

After these tests, your physical therapist will determine a customized treatment plan. The goal of vestibular rehabilitation is to improve any deficits they discovered during the initial exam.

Over time, a physical therapist can help improve your quality of life. Physical therapy can help you avoid falling and improve your day-to-day functionality.

Vestibular Rehab: What It Is and How You’ll Benefit

Unsure if vestibular rehab is right for you? Take a look at your symptoms. Then, speak with a doctor to determine the best course of action for treatment.

With vestibular rehabilitation, you can improve your balance, avoid dizziness, and improve your overall quality of life!

Contact us today to schedule a free telehealth interview with our experts!

Do not settle for standard Physical Therapy when you can hire one of the only few Physio that has demonstrated excellence in the niche of Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Physical Therapy.


Danh Ngo PT, DPT, OCS, SCS

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Board Certified Specialist in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine

Expert in Dizziness and Vestibular Management

Mind Body Health Results Coach