OrthoVirginia Blog

Concussions: Balance and Vestibular Testing

The human brain consists of complex neural networks that govern everything from behavior to motor control.

A Concussion can be the result of any structural compromise or metabolic disturbance to the central nervous system or inner ear following a direct or indirect blow to the head. Three most common symptom complaints following a concussion are headache, dizziness, mental fog or confusion. 

A specialized approach to treating concussions consists of post injury evaluation performed by a Physical Therapist.  The evaluation includes review of medical history, balance and vestibular assessment and a musculoskeletal assessment.

A specialized approach to treating concussions consists of post injury evaluation performed by a Physical Therapist.  The evaluation includes review of medical history, balance and vestibular assessment and a musculoskeletal assessment.

Balance, gait and reaction time may be altered after experiencing a concussion.  Balance exercises should be utilized to improve deficits.  A baseline balance activity as seen in the picture is to stand with feet together on a compliant surface, starting with your eyes open and then overtime as balance improves, progressing to a more challenging eyes closed position.  This simple but effective exercise can help improve walking balance and improve balance in low lighting.

 

Vestibular Rehabilitation is also utilized as a systematic progression to improve motion tolerance and restore coordination between head and eye movement, overall improving your balance and equilibrium function.  As demonstrated in the picture below, focus on a stable object in front of you, turn your head side to side while you work on maintaining a stable gaze on the object while your head is in motion.  It is important to be able to maintain focus on a target without blurred vision and dizziness during head movement, to facilitate daily activities such as reading while walking down the grocery aisle or driving and turning to look for oncoming traffic.

After the physical and mental rest following a concussion, muscle weakness and overall deconditioning can be experienced creating a challenge to resume prior activities.  In physical therapy, a specific program will be established based on your goals and return to sport.  A sport specific ladder drill as seen in the picture is a widely used agility movement among all athletic populations. This high level exercise improves strength, endurance and agility to return to normal life and sport activities.





Courtnie Sparks PT, DPT

Certified Pilates Rehab Specialist
Certified in Vestibular Rehabilitation
Certified in Concussion Rehabilitation
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6/8/2017 1:20:48 AM

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