Vestibular

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The vestibular system is composed of an apparatus of semicircular canals located in the inner ear. It is a sensory system that helps you maintain your balance. This system is key for providing information regarding motion of the body/head and spatial orientation.

The vestibular system composed of three semicircular canals (which tell about rotational movement) and two otoliths, the saccule and utricle (which tell about linear movement, for example up and down). Your vestibular system helps you to do many things, such as walk and move, see clearly when moving, and maintain posture and stability. Without it, you would be falling over constantly.

Your body’s ability to maintain balance relies on three main control systems which all talk together. These systems include sensory input from your eyes (vision), sensory input from the vestibular system and sensory input from your muscles, joints and skin (proprioceptive system). These systems communicate together and share their information to help you adapt your posture and movement as needed. When you are moving, the vestibular system is the boss and the brain will take this information as true. When there is a mismatch between the information coming in from your three balance systems, symptoms of nausea, dizziness and vertigo can occur. An example of this is car sickness. When you are moving in a car, your vestibular system says you are moving forward. If you are reading a book, your eyes tell your brain you are not moving and your somatosensory system says you are sitting still in a seat. This mismatch of information can cause you to feel sick.

When people have a problem with their vestibular system, they usually experience dizziness and/or vertigo. Sometimes this is due to something as simple as movement of crystals in the inner ear (BPPV) and other times it requires more rehabilitation. Vestibular rehabilitation has been shown to be effective for retraining the brain and inner ear how to use the information coming in. Our brains are continually changing and evolving, by challenging the brain through targeted rehabilitation, it can relearn how to use the information properly. It is neuroplastic!

Below are some websites that may be helpful.

BC Balance and Dizziness Association
Vestibular Disorder Association