We all have a sensory system that helps our brains with everyday functions. This includes things like balance, stability and posture. It helps provide important information to our brains about motion, head position and spatial orientation. This system is called the vestibular system. Sometimes after a concussion, it doesn’t work quite right.
A concussion can make it hard for the brain to process information from the vestibular system. This can lead to dizziness, loss of balance and difficulty with coordination. To make up for it, the body relies more on other systems, like vision. This can cause eye strain and headaches. It can also cause general fatigue or fogginess.
Nobody wants to deal with these symptoms. But the good news is, there is a helpful treatment called vestibular therapy.
What is vestibular therapy?
This is a special form of therapy. It uses an exercise-focused program to improve dizziness or issues related to balance.
How vestibular therapy works
Here’s what you can expect if you receive vestibular therapy with the TRIA Sports Concussion Program.
First, we’ll do an exam to see if this therapy is the right fit. One of our TRIA physical therapists will determine which parts of your system are affected by your concussion. They might do an eye exam or look at your head or neck movements. They can also use computer-based technology to assess what parts of your system might not be working correctly.
Your physical therapist will decide which exercises will help your symptoms. You might start with head and neck movement in a seated position. Then you might progress to walking exercises before moving to sport-specific exercises. The progression is different for everyone and depends on how well each person is recovering.
The exercises might be challenging at first. Some patients may even experience an increase in symptoms before they begin to get better. But this therapy gradually helps re-train the brain to tolerate quick head movements. With a little bit of practice every day, symptoms will get better.
Will vestibular therapy help me return to my sport?
More and more evidence shows that this form of therapy helps athletes return to their sport. In fact, studies show it can:
- Improve dizziness
- Help with walking issues
- Improve balance
- Help athletes return to their sport faster than other recovery methods
Your physical therapist will work alongside your physician, neuropsychologist and athletic trainer to provide the best treatment and care. Our team ensures that every patient can perform sport-specific tasks before returning to sport. This helps patients who receive vestibular therapy to gain confidence and get back to the sports and activities they love.
Schedule an appointment with our dedicated sports concussion team by calling 952-831-8742.
- Alsalaheen, BA., Mucha, A., Morris, LO., Whitney, SL., Furman, JM., Camiolo-Reddy, CE., Collins, MW., Lovell, MR., & Sparto, PJ. (2010). Vestibular rehabilitation for dizziness and balance disorder after concussion. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 34, 87-93.
- Schneider, K. (2013). Cervicovestibular rehabilitation in sport-related concussion: a randomised controlled trial. Br J Sports Med.
- McCrory P, Meeuwisse W, Dvořák J, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport—the 5th international conference on concussion in sport held in Berlin, October 2016. Br J Sports Med 2017;51:838-847.