Dizziness and Whiplash: Can Vestibular Rehab Help?
Dizziness is a common complaint after auto injury, affecting between 15-25% of patients with whiplash. Within the neck are tiny sensory receptors called muscle spindles working with a number of reflexes to stabilize the head and eyes. A neck injury may impair these receptors, disrupting the body's ability to maintain postural control. Studies have shown that whiplash patients are more likely to have poor balance and postural control compared to people without the disorder.
Earlier research has indicated that vestibular rehabilitation may help patients with whiplash associated disorders (WAD). Vestibular rehabilitation is a therapy that aims to stabilize gait and gaze through visual and balance exercises.
In a new study, researchers from Lund University in Swedentested whether vestibular rehabilitation could alleviate pain and disability among whiplash patients. Their study included 29 patients with whiplash who were assigned to either a control group or a treatment group receiving vestibular rehabilitation. At both the six week and three month follow-up, the vestibular rehabilitation program did not significantly impact neck pain scores or cervical range of motion.
Despite these results, previous studies have suggested that vestibular rehabilitation can decrease symptoms of dizziness. The same group of researches from Lund University conducted a study in 2006 showing that vestibular rehabilitation led to significant improvements in postural control.
While more research is needed to investigate these conflicting results, it's possible that vestibular rehabilitation may help to improve dizziness without significantly decreasing range of motion and neck pain. Combining vestibular rehabilitation with exercise and chiropractic care could ultimately prove most successful by addressing the multifaceted nature of whiplash-associated disorders.
Hansson EE, et al. Dizziness among patients with whiplash-associated disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 2006; 38 (6): 387-90.
Hansson EE, et al. Influence of vestibular rehabilitation on neck pain and cervical range of motion among patients with whiplash-associated disorder: A randomized controlled trial.Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 2013; doi: 10.2340/16501977-1197.