Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy is often recommended to people suffering from various types of vertigo & dizziness. When someone suffers from vertigo, their vestibular system, the system responsible for maintaining balance & posture in the body, doesn’t function properly. This causes them to feel dizzy, disoriented, unbalanced, nauseous, & motion sick. Some people with vertigo also experience a constant buzzing, ringing, or whistling sound in their ears, also known as Tinnitus. In This article know about the Key Benefits of Using VR in Vestibular Therapy in vertigo treatment.
Vertigo is often caused by inner ear issues, where the person’s inner ear is not functioning properly to maintain balance & hearing. Some other causes of vertigo include:
- BPPV, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
- Vestibular Neuritis, symptoms include swelling of the vestibular nerve, earache, partial hearing loss, vertigo, dizziness, & headache
- Meniere’s Disease
- Head or neck injury
In some cases, vertigo doesn’t have any known causes, or at least, not one that can be identified right away.
The role of Vestibular Therapy exercises in Vertigo treatment:
Vestibular Therapy exercises are known to be very effective in vertigo treatment. They train your body’s other senses to make up for the loss in the natural vestibular system by deploying other senses & organs for the same. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy consists of specifically picked exercises for a particular patient, depending on their medical history, presenting symptoms, pressing issues, & the intensity + frequency of their symptoms.
Your vestibular therapy plan will likely consist of vestibular exercises for vertigo, along with some common maneuvers like canalith repositioning maneuvers, & other exercises to help improve your balance & coordination.
Depending on your particular case, your Vestibular Therapy exercises might include the Epley Maneuver, the Brandt-Daroff exercises, the Semont-Toupet maneuver, & other exercises that help improve your vestibular symptoms. You might also be prescribed general exercises like Yoga, Tai Chi, and the likes to help improve your stability & balance.
How does VR in Vestibular Therapy work?
Vestibular Therapy is an extended rehabilitation process that helps in vertigo treatment by desensitizing vertigo patients to their specific triggers. It also helps their bodies make up for the losses in the natural vestibular system by training their other senses to cope with it. There are many ways this can be done. Virtual Reality is one of the tricks used by doctors to help patients get accustomed to their surroundings & navigate the world without worrying about getting dizzy or motion sick.
Virtual Reality based vestibular rehabilitation therapy exercises is especially useful for vertigo patients who have become fearful of their surroundings. Such patients, which generally includes patients who have been suffering from vertigo for a long time, also tend to become anxious about venturing into the outside world due to a constant fear of falling or getting dizzy.
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How can VR help Vestibular Patients?
Virtual Reality can be especially useful for these patients, & can help them get used to the outside world from the comfort of their homes & safe spaces. In people that suffer from a fear of heights, also known as Acrophobia, Virtual Reality simulations help them get over their fears by navigating heights & places high up on their own through a VR headset. Through regular VR sessions, coupled with talking therapy, physiotherapy, vestibular exercises, the patient can slowly come to accept their condition & feel less anxious about venturing outside or visiting places that are at elevated levels.
Other Virtual Reality simulations like rotary chairs, posturography exercises like moving platforms with fixed/moving visual targets, & head movement simulations can also help in quick & efficient vertigo treatment.
Rotary Chairs: How do they help?
Rotary chairs are often used in vertigo diagnosis as a test to assess a patient’s vestibulo ocular reflexes. However, given their ability to simulate real-world head & body movements, rotary chairs also find an application in vestibular rehabilitation therapy for vertigo patients.
With their help, a patient is desensitized to constant motion & feeling like their surroundings are moving, a common symptom of an active vertigo attack. The aim of rotary chair therapy is to help the patient get used to a moving environment, & train them to keep their balance when such situations arise. Some psychological experts also term this as a form of exposure therapy, wherein the patients are exposed to the very things they fear, in order to make them realize how non-harmful those really are.
VR Video games: How they help?
VR based video games that have patients walking on roofs, towers, ceilings, & jumping from one building to another, also help vertigo patients get over their fear of heights. Other VR based environments like a shopping mall, walking through a crowded aisle, walking sideways, walking in a straight line, & walking while the surroundings move around, all help in vertigo treatment & train the patients to overcome & deal with external stimuli.
Among the most practical benefits of Vestibular Therapy, is the fact that it helps doctors give vertigo patients a sense of the outside environment with the help of hi-tech visual & audio input while keeping the patient in a regulated, controlled setting. Over time, when done regularly & in tandem with other vestibular therapy exercises, vertigo treatment medications, & talk therapy, VR based vestibular therapy can actually help vertigo patients win over their anxiety & vertigo symptoms.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Vestibular therapy is that it not only helps the patients get relief from their vertigo symptoms but also helps them get accustomed to their surroundings & better deal with environmental triggers.
Overall, VR based vestibular rehabilitation therapy can be a really effective vertigo treatment method to help vertigo patients develop adequate coping strategies for external environmental triggers & other motion stimuli.
With proper strategies, regular schedules, & thorough patient follow-up post therapy sessions, adequately designed vestibular rehabilitation therapy exercises have shown to be highly effective in vertigo treatment.