Balance is something we may take for granted until something causes it to change. A properly functioning balance system allows us to walk and move normally, see objects clearly while doing so, and make automatic adjustments to our posture to maintain balance and stability. When something goes wrong with it, it can throw our entire rhythm off, which is what happens with a balance disorder called vestibular neuritis.
Vestibular neuritis is a rare disorder that results from inflammation within the inner ear. The inner ear consists of a system of fluid-filled sacs and tubes called the labyrinth, which is necessary for both hearing and balance. For balance, the labyrinth connects to the brain through the vestibulo-cochlear nerve in each ear, where it sends information to the brain regarding balance and head position to keep our bodies stable. When this nerve becomes swollen or inflamed, it disrupts the pathway of information being sent to the brain and leads to balance problems and other symptoms.
The main symptoms of vestibular neuritis are sudden and severe vertigo, dizziness, balance difficulties nausea and/or vomiting and difficulties with concentration. The inflammation that causes this disorder is usually from a viral infection of the inner ear or elsewhere in the body, such as herpes, mumps, measles or the flu. In rare cases it can be a bacterial infection that causes it. Although these symptoms may only last a few days, they can make performing daily activities extremely difficult, and some patients experience symptoms that last several months.
This is why effective treatment is so important for patients with balance issues in New York City from vestibular neuritis. Treatment for this disorder should consist of managing the symptoms, treating the virus if one is suspected, and a vestibular, or balance rehab program. This is where we come in. If dizziness and balance problems last for more than a few weeks, we strongly recommend this type of program, which will consist of the following:
- First, one of our physical therapists will evaluate all parts of your body that affect balance—including the legs, ears, eyes and entire body—to determine how much balance is impaired; the resulting program will be based around this evaluation
- Balance retraining exercises: these types of exercises will have the patient shift their body weight in various directions while standing to improve the way information is sent to the brain
- Gaze stabilization exercises: these are designed to keep vision steady while making rapid side-to-side head turns while focusing on an object, which will help the brain adapt to new signaling from the balance system
- Home-exercise program: your physical therapist will create a program to be performed at home that includes these and possibly other exercises
- The key is to repeat these exercises 2-3 times per day, which will help the brain learn how to adjust to movements that cause dizziness and imbalance
Fortunately, about 95% of cases of vestibular neuritis are a one-time experience, but having balance issues in New York City just once can really mess with your daily life. If you’ve been experiencing balance problems and aren’t sure what to do, Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy is here to help. For more information on vestibular neuritis, read our next blog, or to schedule an appointment, call us at 212-317-8303.