People with multiple sclerosis (MS) have special needs when it comes to physical rehabilitation. Physical therapists who specialize in neurological disorders have the training, skills, and equipment to better assess patient needs and to recommend therapies to help address specific deficiencies. My own neurophysical therapist has been great at helping me to improve balance and strength.
In addition to issues stemming from muscle weakness, lack of coordination, spasticity, or deconditioning, people with MS may experience problems with dizziness, vertigo, lack of proprioception (awareness of body position in space), or impaired vestibular function (affecting spatial orientation and sense of balance). A special form of rehabilitation that can help with dizziness and vertigo is called vestibular rehabilitation therapy.
What is vestibular rehabilitation therapy?
Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT), or vestibular retraining, is an exercise-based treatment program designed to improve your brain’s ability to adapt to vestibular problems and to use other senses to accommodate for deficiencies. The goals of VRT are 1) to enhance gaze stability, 2) to enhance postural stability, 3) to improve vertigo, and 4) to improve activities of daily living.
Key exercises for VRT involve head-eye movements combined with various body postures and activities, and performed maintaining balance with a reduced support base while using various orientations of the head and trunk. These exercises may be performed while conducting various upper-extremity tasks, repeating the movements that provoke vertigo, and exposing patients gradually to various sensory and motor environments that typically cause disorientation.
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What is Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy?