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Published on September 30, 2008

Are You A Klutz or is it Something More Serious?

September 30, 2008

Dropping your morning cup of coffee, tripping over table and chair legs, or knocking things off your desk at work are common occurrences for a lot of people. But for some, these episodes of clumsiness are more than just trying to function before their morning cup of coffee; it could be a result of altered vestibular function. The vestibular system, which includes the inner and middle ear, controls the sense of movement and balance, and influences other sensory systems. Damage to this system can result in dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, and spatial distortion. 

Vestibular dysfunctions can be caused by a variety of reasons including viral infections of the inner ear, inflammation of the ear’s vesibulo-choclear or vestibular nerve, bacterial infections of the middle ear, allergies that cause changes in the inner ear fluids, head trauma, and exposure to ototoxins. Other cases of dizziness are caused by problems unrelated to the inner ear, like cardiovascular, neurological or psychological disorders. 

Vestibular (or balance) rehabilitation, a service offered by the Valley West Community Hospital Rehabilitation Department, is non-invasive, individually designed exercises and activities for patients to help cope with balance disorders. 

“Vestibular rehabilitation can often decrease the frequency, intensity and duration of vertigo,” said Brad Jourdan, physical therapist and director of VWCH rehab services. “This specialized physical therapy can also decrease related symptoms such as headache, nausea, and lightheadedness, improve balance, and increase independence in daily activities.

“We help each patient develop strategies to compensate for their dizziness, and  equilibrium problems and to help them cope with the  anxiety these problems can cause,” Jourdan said. 

The Vestibular Rehabilitation therapists at Valley West offer assessments and treatment for people experiencing central, systemic and peripheral vestibular dysfunctions; chronic, uncompensated peripheral weakness; bilateral vestibular loss; multi-sensory disequilibrium; labyrinthine disequilibrium; post surgical vestibular defects; and general balance deficiencies. After a thorough evaluation, the therapist can develop and implement a treatment program that includes exercises that combines specific head and body movements with eye exercises. “The goal of vestibular rehabilitation is to coordinate the signals from the eyes, the sensation of joint motion and the vestibular system. As a result of therapy, balance often improves and muscle tension, dizziness, vertigo and nausea will decrease or disappear,” Jourdan said.

Valley West Vestibular Rehabilitation is available in Sandwich and Yorkville. A physician’s order is required to schedule rehabilitation services. For more information about vestibular rehabilitation or to schedule an appointment, please call 815.786.8550.

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