Striking The Right Balance: 7 Surprising Facts
We all know that balance is important in many aspects of life; work-life balance, a balanced budget and your body’s balance system. While this may be something you’ve never thought much about, the balance (vestibular) system plays a huge role in how your body functions. The vestibular system is part of the our body's larger balance system; it consists of two portions, a peripheral (ear) portion and a central (brain) portion.
The balance system consists of your eyes, your inner ear, joints and muscles. Each of these sends signals to your brain about body position and head movement, the brain then uses this information to balance the body. However, when there is a problem with any one of these parts, namely the inner ear, the brain receives conflicting signals. Often times this is accompanied by symptoms that can be disorienting and scary, vertigo or dizziness being one of the most common.
To help keep you balanced, physical therapists, Martina Tracy, PT, ITPT and Jennifer Lech, PT, MPT, ITPT provide important facts about vestibular disorders you should know:
- Vestibular disorders are very common: In fact, nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults that are 40 years or older have experienced a vestibular dysfunction.
- They can occur for no apparent reason: There are many possible causes of vestibular disorders (e.g., disease, injury, poisoning, autoimmune diseases, traumatic brain injury…etc.); however, most people experience them without a clear cause.
- You can experience serious symptoms: While many may not categorize vestibular disorders as a serious condition, they can spur on several intense side effects, including: dizziness, vertigo (spinning sensation), imbalance, tinnitus (ringing in your ears), fatigue, jumping vision, nausea and/or vomiting, hearing loss, anxiety and some cognitive difficulties.
- They’re hard to diagnose: Unfortunately, because there is often no clear cause and there is a wide array of symptoms, it can be very difficult for doctors to recognize and diagnose a vestibular disorder. In fact, it is estimated that many patients end up consulting four or more doctors before an accurate diagnosis is made.
- There isn’t a go–to cure: Due to the nature of vestibular disorders, there isn’t always a clear treatment plan. While some patients may have to adapt to long-term limitations, there are several promising treatment options available that can significantly improve symptoms. These include medication, vestibular therapy, healthy lifestyle changes, surgery and maneuvering techniques.
- Vestibular disorders aren’t just physical: Like most health conditions, vestibular disorders not only have a physical impact, they have a psychological impact, too. Due to the limitations many patients experience, their independence and quality of life can be affected spurring on anxiety, depression and persistent fear. Some patients can also experience difficulty concentrating, memory difficulties and mental fatigue.
- There are more than you’d think: Surprisingly, there are nearly 25 different types of vestibular disorders, the most common ones being Ménière's Disease, vertigo, labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis and vestibular migraine.