Home Balance Exercises for the Dizzy Patient
The exercises described below may be helpful to resolve dizziness due to vestibular dysfunction that is not due to BPPV or Meniere's Disease which are treated differently. Vestibular dysfunction amenable to a home exercise regimen is typically determined based on VNG or ENG testing. Such exercises are helpful in select patients as it slowly challenges the inner ear balance system in such a way to make it work better. The analogy would be a young gymnast doing repetitive exercises to make their sense of balance supernormal in order perform amazing feats on the balance beam or a ballerina doing similar exercises to maintain perfect balance even though they are dancing on the tip of one toe. Needless to say, there is no "pill" that makes balance improve quickly. Drugs like meclizine may only temporarily help, but often makes balance WORSE in the long run. Read more about how drugs like meclizine work.
The human balance system is composed of 3 different systems working together to allow for dizzy-free movement.
- The eyes provide visual cues
- The inner ear balance system provides gyroscopic information
- Proprioception provides sense of position in space based on information provided from the muscles, tendons, and joints
What these exercises try to accomplish is to challenge the inner ear balance system in a graduated fashion by slowly taking away balance information provided by the eyes (by closing them) as well as proprioception (walking heel-to-toe). Although the first few exercises may be overly easy and simplistic, balance may be quite challenging by the end (exercise #14).
Keep in mind that such home exercises will NOT help with dizziness due to BPPV as well as Meniere's Disease. It only helps with stable vestibular dysfunction. To use an orthopedic analogy, BPPV is like a dislocated shoulder for which a single set of highly specific movements can "cure" the problem. Meniere's disease is analogous to severe muscle cramps (periods of absolute normalcy followed by extreme abnormality). Stable vestibular dysfunction is analagous to weak muscles for which working out in the gym regularly is required to make them stronger.
If you are not quite sure what type of dizziness you have, click here to try and figure it out.
Home Vestibular Rehabilitation Exercises
Each exercise should be performed 20 or more times and be performed at least two or more times a day. It is normal to get dizzy with these exercises at some point if you suffer from vestibular dysfunction. If the dizziness is extreme, do not progress to the next exercise. Keep repeating the same exercise until the dizziness is minimal before moving on to the next exercise. Be safe! Make sure someone is with you to assist in order to minimize risk of injury.
While seated, with eyes open, turn your head from side to side. First slowly, and then gradually increase speed according to your own pace.
Repeat exercise 1 with your eyes closed.
While seated, with eyes open, move your head up and down. Slowly and then gradually increase speed at your own pace.
Repeat exercise 3 with your eyes closed.
While seated, with eyes open, turn your head to the right 45 degrees. Shake your head up and down, slowly and then gradually increase speed at your own pace.
Repeat exercise 5 with eyes closed.
While seated, with eyes open, turn your head to the left 45 degrees. Shake your head up and down, slowly and then gradually increase speed at your own pace.
Repeat exercise 7 with eyes closed.
Repeat these same exercises, but this time while keeping the eyes focused on a finger with arm outstretched still in front of you.
Repeat these same exercises #1-9 while standing, first with eyes open, and than with eyes closed.
Repeat these same exercises #1-9 while sitting up and down from a chair, first with eyes open, and than with eyes closed.
On a flat open surface, walk 10 to 15 steps with eyes open, turn around and walk back 10 to 15 steps with eyes closed. Repeat the above while tilting your head up/down and left/right in random movement. For your safety, it is recommended to do this exercise while someone else is observing, preferably walking beside you incase you fall.
Repeat exercise 12 while walking on pillows or blankets to create an uneven surface, first with eyes open, and than again with eyes closed. Do this exercise while someone else is with you.
Repeat exercise 12 while walking heel-to-toe in a straight line, first with eyes open, and than again with eyes closed. Do this exercise while someone else is with you.
You can download and print a copy of these exercises here.
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