What Is Inner Ear Trauma?
Trauma—such as hitting your head in a fall or injuring your neck in a car accident—can damage the structures of your inner ear. The inner ear contains the “peripheral vestibular system, which plays a big role in keeping your balance. The inner ears tell the brain how the body is moving in relation to gravity. In addition, the inner ears communicate information about head motion, which is used to coordinate eye motion.
Signs and Symptoms
When the inner ears are injured, you may have:
Vertigo (you feel like the room is spinning)
Dizziness (you feel lightheaded)
Symptoms vary from person to person and usually depend on the type and extent of injury.
Because of the unpleasant symptoms, you might begin to restrict your level of activity, and you might even stop participating in your roles at home and at work. But restricting your activities because of these symptoms can actually slow your recovery from an inner ear injury.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
First, your physical therapist will perform tests to determine the causes of your symptoms and also to assess your risk of falling. Depending on the results of the tests, your therapist may recommend further testing or consultation with your physician.
Based on your physical therapist’s evaluation and your goals for recovery, the therapist will customize a treatment plan for you. The specific treatments will depend on the cause of your symptoms. Your therapist’s main focus is to help you get moving again and manage the symptoms at the same time. Treatment may include specialized exercises to:
Decrease or eliminate dizziness
Restore clear vision when the head is moving
If you also have stiffness or pain in your neck, your physical therapist will prescribe exercises and treatments such as manual therapy to help reduce the pain and stretch your muscles. In addition, your physical therapist might prescribe exercises to improve your strength, your flexibility, and your heart health—with the goal of improving your overall physical health and well-being.
Recovery takes patience and time, sometimes months; so it’s very important that you get back to your normal activities as soon as possible. Avoiding movements and activities that make you dizzy may only complicate your recovery from inner ear problems caused by trauma.
Your physical therapist will teach you strategies to help you cope with your symptoms
Do certain activities or chores around the house cause you to become dizzy? Your therapist will show you how to do those activities in a different way to help reduce the dizziness.
Have simple activities become difficult and cause fatigue and more dizziness? Your therapist will help you work through these symptoms right away so you can get moving again and return to your roles at home and at work more quickly.