Vertigo exercises have long been an effective method of vertigo treatment. They help relieve the various problematic symptoms of vertigo and give long-standing relief to vertigo patients. While most of these vertigo exercises tend to fix the acute type of vertigo, with a focus on relieving immediate symptoms. Some of these are meant to prevent vertigo attacks by helping strengthen the inner ear & curing long-term dizziness.
These vertigo exercises help your body get used to the triggers that bring on dizziness, nausea, motion sickness, & other vertigo symptoms. Any vertigo exercises should always be performed only after a complete discussion with your doctor. Performing any of these exercises without discussing them first with your doctor can lead to the possible worsening of your symptoms.
In this blog, we’ll tell you the top 3 vertigo exercises that are the most effective in treating vertigo symptoms. They are often recommended for vertigo treatment as well as for strengthening your inner ear & the vestibular system.
Vestibular Compensation process
These vertigo exercises that help relieve dizziness and vertigo, and also help strengthen the vestibular system, are grouped under vestibular compensation. Vestibular Compensation is a process that helps chronic and long-term vertigo patients get relief from their symptoms for good sometimes. It also helps strengthen the inner ear & the vestibular system to better deal with any triggers that might lead to dizziness and vertigo symptoms. This process consists of several specially designed exercises that are curated to your particular needs and medical requirements. Your symptoms, their intensity, frequency, medical history, & overall health is also taken into consideration while selecting the perfect vertigo exercises.
Let’s have a look at some of the most common vertigo exercises that are often part of the vestibular compensation process.
Cawthorne Cooksey exercises
The Cawthorne-Cooksey exercises help relax the neck & shoulder muscles, & also train the eyes to move independently of the head’s position. The vertigo exercises are aimed at developing good balance in everyday situations, nullifying the head positions or movements that trigger vertigo, and encouraging the patient to make rapid, unannounced movements gradually. When patients perform these for a long time, they help regain their balance and improve their general stability & coordination.
Before starting you off with Cawthorne-Cooksey exercises, your doctor will assess you carefully to figure out if the exercises are helpful to you or not. Only post that, they will recommend you the exercises and give you careful instructions on how to perform them. They might also ask one of your family members to learn the exercises with you to provide support for you.
It’s also important to build up your tolerance level with the initial exercises before moving on to the next, more advanced set of exercises. This helps you stay balanced & coordinated while performing the exercises, as otherwise, your vertigo symptoms might become worse.
As a rule of thumb, you should spend at least a minute or two on each exercise before progressing to the next. It’s also important to remember that these exercises can cause short-lived bouts of dizziness, nausea, & other vertigo symptoms after you perform them. Keeping this in mind, you should always start with exercises that make you feel the least dizzy then move on to the ones that are more advanced.
It can be helpful to rate your dizziness on a scale of 0-5 while performing these vertigo exercises. Always start with exercises that make you feel somewhere between 3-5 on the dizziness scale(mild to moderate), then try to bring it to 0. Once you’re able to perform an exercise without it invoking dizziness for 3 days straight, try moving on to the next one & repeat the process.
Pro Tip: Always ensure that you’re in a safe environment before starting the exercises. Do NOT perform any vertigo exercises in an uneven, unsafe, or potentially unstable surface/environment as it may increase the risks of falling & injuring yourself.
Exercises to perform In Bed or while sitting:
A. Eye Movements
- Moving your eyes up & down
- Moving your eyes from one side to the other
- Focusing your eyes on a finger first placed at 3 feet away then slowly moving closer until it’s just 1 feet away from you.
B. Head Movements
- Tilting your head forwards and backwards
- Turning your head from one side to the other
C. Combined eye, head, & muscle movements
- Eye & Head movements as mentioned above
- Shrugging and circling your shoulders
- Bending from one side to the other & picking up objects from the ground without feeling dizzy
Exercises to perform while standing
- Eye, head, & shoulder movements as mentioned above.
- Changing from a sitting to a standing pose with eyes open first, and then closed. Elderly patients and those with postural hypertension should avoid this step.
- Throwing a ball from one hand to another while keeping it at eye level.
- Throwing a ball from one hand to another while keeping it under the knee level.
- Changing from a sitting to a standing pose while turning around in between.
Exercises to stabilize your gaze
Gaze stabilization exercises focus on improving your gaze and help your eyes focus on a stationary object while your head is moving in different directions. There are many gaze stabilization exercises that are used as part of a vestibular compensatory process. Your doctor should be able to determine which gaze stabilization exercises are the most effective for you based on your test results, observed symptoms, and overall health.
One of the most common renditions of the gaze stabilization exercises is given below. Follow the steps carefully to perform these by yourself.
- Focus on a letter(for eg, E, A, C, etc.) placed at eye level in front of you while looking straight ahead.
- While keeping your eyes fixed on the letter, move your head from one side to the other. Try to speed up the head movements while allowing your gaze to be firmly fixed on the target letter. If you start getting excessively dizzy, stop and rest for a while before continuing.
- At first, aim to perform only up to 10 seconds of the exercise, until you find that the resulting dizziness has disappeared. Once that happens, gradually increase the timing of the exercise to a minute, & longer. It’s important to give yourself time to adapt to the exercise and its resulting dizziness, as your brain needs this data to adapt itself better to any potential vertigo triggers.
If you feel uncomfortable with the side-to-side head movements, you can try nodding up & down instead.
At a more advanced level, these gaze stabilization exercises include placing the target letter/object against a busy backdrop(like cars moving, people running, sceneries changing, etc.) You should try to keep your gaze focused on the letter/object without feeling dizzy. You can also start in a sitting position then move on to a standing position as the exercise further progresses.
Canalith Repositioning Maneuvers
Canalith Repositioning maneuvers are the most effective vertigo exercises for patients with BPPV. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, also known as BPPV, is a type of vertigo that occurs when tiny calcium crystals that normally reside in the middle ear, break loose and deposit inside the semicircular canal of the inner ear. These exercises help reposition the displaced crystals back into the original place inside the middle ear, where they don’t cause any problems with the body’s balance.
These exercises include the well-known Epley Maneuver that is able to quickly & effectively remove the dislodged calcium crystals from the inner ear & place it back into the middle ear. The success rate of the Epley Maneuver is close to 90% & it is by fat the most effective vertigo exercise for patients with BPPV.
Another well-known & effective vertigo exercise is the Brandt-Daroff exercise which uses gravity to dislodge the calcium crystals from the inner ear canal.
The Semont maneuver is another vertigo exercise that helps remove the calcium crystals from the inner ear & provides relief to the patients.