What is a Home VRT program?
During vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT), home exercises are a vital part of treatment. A physical therapist (PT) or occupational therapist (OT) specialist will design an individualized treatment plan with appropriate exercises to be performed at a prescribed pace.
Balance-strengthening and general fitness
The success of any balance-retraining program depends in part on good general fitness. Progressive fitness programs increase energy and reduce stress. Therapists may recommend low-impact aerobics or a walking program to improve overall fitness. Some activities such as Tai Chi support both general fitness improvements and balance-strengthening.
The Nintendo Wii game console has also been used by PTs and OTs to support at-home balance programs, but because the technology is so recent there is little clinical evidence for its effectiveness.
What exercises can I do when I don't have access to physical therapy?
While VEDA does not recommend doing vestibular exercises at home without a diagnosis and a personal treatment plan from vestibular specialists, if your doctor has told you that your dizziness is related to a vestibular deficit and that exercise is appropriate for you to try, ask yourself what makes you dizzy. Is your dizziness related to a particular movement of your head? Perhaps when you turn your head to look at something to one side or the other you feel dizzy.
Once you have identified dizziness-provoking movements, you can begin an exercise program to repeat those movements to help you to achieve vestibular compensation. It's important to repeat them at least five times in a row and twice a day. If you find there are several different movements that make you dizzy, pick two to work on at a time. Once you no longer experience dizziness in response to these movements, add two more. Don’t try to do exercises for more than two movements at a time.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop the exercises and call your doctor:
- Sudden change or fluctuation in hearing
- Onset of pressure or a feeling of fullness in your ear to the point of discomfort or pain (many people experience a slight increase in ear pressure but pain should never occur)
- Onset of ringing in your ears or a sudden change in intensity of already existing ringing
- Fluid discharge from your ears
- Pain and discomfort in your neck and back associated with doing the exercises
If you have general dizziness and nothing makes you better or worse, it will be difficult for you to find a specific exercise program to help your symptoms. With your doctor’s approval, try a general low-impact and balance-strengthening fitness program. The more active you are, the more likely it is that your symptoms will improve.