Balance And Vestibular Physical Therapy For Patients Suffering From Meniere’s Disease

Meniere's disease is a disorder involving the inner ear. This chronic condition causes a plethora of symptoms, including vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss. The exact cause of Meniere's disease is not known; however, those with allergies or an autoimmune disease are more likely to develop Meniere's disease. Meniere's disease is often accompanied by abnormal levels of fluid in the inner ear, which can cause vertigo and balance issues. The following article discusses physical therapy options to help increase balance and relieve neck stiffness.

Teaching Patients to Avoid Injury by Increasing Balance

Physical therapists teach patients a variety of exercises to improve balance and coordination. There are numerous exercises used to improve balance, including eye tracking, standing on one foot and the Hokey Pokey.

  • Standing on One Foot- Learning to support yourself on one leg is a great way to improve balance. Begin by placing a straight back chair to your side. Grasp the chair and lift your leg a couple of inches off the floor. As you hold this position, let go of the chair and stand for 30 seconds. After you have mastered this technique, try extending your lifted leg forward, back and to the side.
  • Eye Tracking- You can teach yourself to focus when the room seems to be spinning by learning these eye-tracking exercises. The thumb movement exercise can help you restore your center of gravity. To perform this exercise, give a thumb's up signal at arm's length while standing. Keep your eyes on your thumb and move your thumb left, right, up and down. Follow the movement of your thumb by turning your head, while maintaining eye contact with your thumb.
  • Hokey Pokey- Did you know playing the hokey pokey can help you regain your balance? This exercise is great for those who feel dizzy upon rising from a sitting position. Start slowly by lifting one arm directly out to your side and make gentle circles for 30 seconds. Continue this process by making circular movements with your other arm, each of your legs and your head. Finish this exercise by allowing your body to sway in a circle for 30 seconds. Once you have mastered this exercise, try it with your eyes closed.

Treating Neck Stiffness

Another common issue with Meniere's patients is neck stiffness. Neck stiffness often occurs because of anxiety associated with hearing loss and balance issues. To help alleviate neck stiffness, a physical therapist may prescribe a variety of stretching exercises. Two of the most common stretches are the Levator scapula stretch and the corner stretch.

  • Levator Scapula Stretch- Sit in a straight back chair and stretch your arm sideways from your body. Then bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle and lift it above the shoulder. While holding this position, gently turn your head to the opposite side, tuck your chin towards your collarbone and hold for 30 seconds. For an added stretch, gently push the head forward, using your hand that is not lifted.
  • Corner Stretch- Stand two feet away, facing a corner with feet together. Place your forearms on each wall and lean forward until you feel a slight stretch in your shoulders and chest. Hold for 30 seconds to help relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.

Chronic vertigo and balance issues are often caused by fluctuating levels of fluids in the inner ear. Physical therapies involving balance restoration often improve the symptoms associated with Meniere's disease. If you are suffering with vestibular and balance problems, physical therapy may help you restore balance and diminish the symptoms associated with Meniere's disease. Use the exercises listed above to help you overcome balance issues and neck stiffness.