Balance and Vestibular Program

When simple tasks are disrupted by dizziness and loss of balance

Balance is vital to everyday life and simple activities such as getting out of a chair, walking, bending over to put on shoes, washing your hair, driving a car, or going shopping. When balance problems develop there can be serious consequences: risk for falls increase, attention span can be shortened and abnormal sleep patterns can result, causing excess fatigue. For individuals with a medical condition, the ability to maintain balance is even more complex. The CHI Health Balance and Vestibular Program provides vestibular physical therapy and can help individuals whose lives have been disrupted by dizziness and loss of balance, regain their independence.

Here are the facts:

  • Each year, more than 10 million patients visit a physician due to dizziness.  It is the most common complaint of patients over the age of 75, but dizziness can occur in patients of any age.
  • 90 million Americans will experience a dizziness or balance problem that significantly interferes with their lives.
  • Although dizziness can be caused by many different medical conditions, as many as one-third of those who seek medical attention have dizziness because of problems with their vestibular system.
  • 30 - 40% of people over age 65 will fall each year. Even falls that may not result in injury can have serious consequences. The fear of falling may cause individuals to reduce activity that leads to loss of strength, flexibility and mobility. Loss of strength and flexibility increases the risk of future falls.
  • Falls are not a normal process of aging; 30-40% of falls can be prevented. Complaints of dizziness or unsteadiness can be the first sign that an injury or a medical problem exists. Your physician is the first line of defense in early diagnosis and prevention.
  • Dizziness is the second most common reason people seek medical help.
  • Dizziness is highly associated with your ability to balance, and especially for older adults, dizziness and imbalance can greatly increase the risk for falls.

Why do we lose our balance?

Loss of balance and falls are not inevitable as we grow older. However, balance and dizziness problems can significantly increase with age, as well as the risk for more serious injuries. To complicate matters further, falls are typically not the result of a single cause or risk factor. More often, they are the result of a combination of factors. That is why patients can benefit from their physician and physical therapist working together to diagnose, treat and prevent future loss of balance.

Factors that can be evaluated to determine your risk for falls:

  • Level of physical fitness
  • Presence of disease and ailments
  • Psychological factors
  • Social factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Types of walking surfaces
  • Obstacles
  • Poor lighting

Signs and Symptoms of a Balance or Vestibular Disorder:

  • Dizziness, motion sickness or vertigo/spinning sensation
  • Neck tightness, stiffness and/or pain
  • History of falling
  • A feeling of imbalance or unsteadiness
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear​
  • The need to hold onto objects when walking
  • Blurry vision with head movements

Types of Balance and Vestibular Disorders We Diagnose and Treat:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
  • Concussion
  • Disequilibrium of Aging
  • Imbalance and falls
  • Vestibular Neuritis
  • Vestibular Migraine
  • Meniere's disease
  • Vestibular Labyrinthitis
  • Neck-related dizziness and migraine
  • Bilateral Vestibular Loss
  • Neurologic disorders causing falls (stroke, brain injury, Parkinson’s)

Good news for getting help

The CHI Health Balance and Vestibular Program can help individuals whose lives have been disrupted by dizziness and loss of balance regain their independence.

The vestibular system is your balance and motion center. Its primary function is to tell the brain where the head is in space. It also helps to stabilize your vision while your head is moving. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is the process of training the vestibular system to work more efficiently to reduce dizziness and improve balance. VRT has been shown to be very effective for many people with dizziness and balance disorders.

Physical therapists in the CHI Health Balance and Vestibular program are specially trained to assess how the parts of the human balance system work together to control balance. Based on testing the inner ear, eyes/vision, and joint position sense (proprioception) results, the physical therapist will work with your physician to customize treatment for to help reduce dizziness and improve balance. Sensory tests assess these three systems that contribute to balance control:

  • Inner ears
  • Eyes/Vision
  • Joint position sense/Proprioception

Motor tests measure the ability to coordinate voluntary and involuntary movements to maintain balance. Based on these test results, the physical therapist will work with your physician to customize treatment for maximum benefit. An individualized plan of care will be developed with you to help improve balance and reduce the risk of falls.

Dizziness Self-test

Answer each question as it pertains to your dizziness and balance.

How Can I Schedule an Evaluation?

A physician referral is required for balance and vestibular rehabilitation therapy. If you think you could benefit, contact your physician for a referral.