Matters of balance: Physical therapy addresses vestibular issues

As people age, the likelihood of encountering issues related to balance and dizziness become much more prevalent and can often impact that person's quality of life.

And while some might think certain vestibular (relating to balance) issues might require an interventional medical procedure, Roman Kinal, PT, CSCS, manager of outpatient rehab services at McLaren Oakland and McLaren Clarkston, says many issues can be resolved through physical therapy techniques, and resolved much quicker than some might think.

Kinal and his department have added specialized, state-of-the-art equipment and certified therapists to diagnose and treat these specific disorders and increase quality of life.

Frenzel video goggles, setting the McLaren Clarkston Physical Therapy office's treatment of vestibular disorders apart from other area providers, as they are one of very few programs to offer this advanced technology.

The Frenzel goggles use high resolution cameras to magnify and record very small eye movements that are not normally detected by the naked eye. This information, along with a complete vestibular evaluation, allows specialized physical therapists to make a more accurate assessment and ultimately ensure that each patient receives optimal corrective treatment.

"This is a very common complaint-to family physicians and even to emergency rooms, from those who have suffered injuries from falls," Kinal said. "When we reach our late 50s into our 60s and 70s, the likelihood of balance and vestibular dysfunction increases.

"But these conditions are very treatable. Most people might not know that after a few visits with a therapist their life can be so much better."

With more than 200,000 cases reported each year, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the more common forms of vestibular disorder-a form of vertigo with symptoms of dizziness and unsteadiness.

While many might schedule an appointment with a physician for interventional treatment, Kinal says an appointment with a physical therapist will be quicker and more effective in most cases.

One of the only groups in the state to own and utilize the diagnostic tool Frenzel goggles, Kinal and his staff can determine a course of treatment. Frenzel goggles use high-speed, high-resolution cameras to film the eye during simple movement tests to determine the type and extent of the balance issue.

"Some might require a physician," Kinal said. "But in cases of BPPV, a few sessions with a therapist specialist can correct those imbalances and save the patient the time and costs of a specialist."

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