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Overview of the Vestibular System

Overview of the Vestibular System

The vestibular system is our balance organ and lies deep within the inner ear near the temporal bone of our skull.  Its main components are three semicircular canals (posterior, anterior, horizontal), the cochlea, utricle, and saccule.  The semicircular canals are responsible for sensing the direction and amplitude of head rotation. The cochlea is our hearing organ.  The utricle senses motion in the horizontal plane, and the saccule senses motion in the vertical plane.  The utricle contains calcium carbonate crystals (otoconia), and if these crystals fall into the semicircular canal they lead to the false sense that the head and body are spinning.

Common Vestibular Disorders:

vertigo

BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo): BPPV is the most common and easily treated of the vestibular disorders.  It occurs when the otoconia in the utricle fall into one of the semicircular canals.  When this happens you will feel a sense of spinning or vertigo.  The vertigo most commonly occurs when you roll over in bed, look up, or bend over. The vertigo usually lasts less than one minute.  In addition to vertigo, you may also feel unsteady and nauseous.  In most instances there is no cause, but BPPV can be caused in other instances by a fall or head trauma.

Labyrinthitis/Vestibular Neuritis: Both diagnoses are commonly caused by a viral infection. This infection causes inflammation of the vestibular nerve. The main symptom is an acute onset of prolonged severe vertigo that is exacerbated by head movement associated with nausea and imbalance. If temporary or permanent hearing loss also occurs with the above symptoms then a diagnosis of labyrinthitis is determined.

Meniere’s Disease: A diagnosis of Meniere’s is determined when several attacks are experienced involving fullness of the ear, reduced hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), vertigo, imbalance, and nausea and vomiting.  When there is no attack, hearing will return but possibly not to baseline.

Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV): Approximately 35% of patients that suffer from migraines have some kind of vestibular syndrome at one point or another.  Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light, motion sickness, vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss, imbalance, and neck pain. The best course of treatment is a combination of medicine, physical therapy, and dietary changes.  Physical therapy can assist in decreasing muscle tension, dizziness, and improving imbalance.

At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, you will receive individualized attention to your specific problem.  A comprehensive evaluation and treatment will be designed to help you in decreasing your symptoms, improving your balance, and restoring your confidence so that you can return to your prior level of function.

If you are experiencing dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or balance problems, give Loudoun Sports Therapy Center a call at 703-450-4300 to schedule an evaluation with one of our expertly trained physical therapists.

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