Ménière’s disease is an inner ear (vestibular system) disorder that affects approximately 1 in every 1000 Canadians.[i] It can be difficult to detect, and its symptoms, including imbalance, nausea and dizziness, can mimic the presentation of other diseases. While Ménière’s can be disabling, many forms of therapy, including physical therapy can help to mitigate the signs of the disease.
What is Ménière’s Disease?
Ménière’s Disease is a disorder that causes fluid to collect in the inner ear resulting in a variety of symptoms that can occur suddenly, without any warning. The symptoms can include vertigo, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), a feeling of fullness in the ears and hearing loss.
The disease occurs equally in both men and women and is more likely to occur in adults between 40 and 60 years of age.[ii] Genetic and environmental factors can also influence the incidence of the disease between countries.
What Causes Ménière’s Disease Symptoms?
Ménière’s disease symptoms are caused by the buildup of fluid in a compartment of the inner ear, called the labyrinth. The labyrinth contains the organs of balance (the semicircular canals and otolithic organs) and of hearing (the cochlea). It has two sections: the bony labyrinth and the membranous labyrinth.
The membranous labyrinth is filled with a fluid called endolymph that, stimulates receptors as the body moves, sending signals to the brain about the body’s position and movement. In the cochlea, fluid is compressed in response to sound vibrations, which stimulates sensory cells that send signals to the brain.
The endolymph buildup in the labyrinth interferes with the normal balance and hearing signals between the inner ear and the brain, causing the symptoms of the disease.ii
What is the Outlook for Someone with Ménière’s Disease?
Although there is no cure for Ménière’s, there are many treatment options available to those who suffer from the disease. These can include medications (anti-vertigo, anti-nausea and diuretics), dietary changes (reducing sodium, eliminating alcohol and caffeine), injections to the inner ear and surgery.[iii] While these options may help, physical therapy also offers a treatment approach to alleviate the symptoms of Ménière’s disease.
Physical Therapy and Ménière’s Disease
Vestibular physiotherapy specializes in the treatment of dysfunction of the vestibular system that leads to imbalance, dizziness, and nausea. This type of therapy may include positional maneuvers, habituation exercises, gaze stability training and balance training.
In Ménière’s disease, balance may be affected, as well as secondary compensations such as neck strain, overreliance on vision and muscular imbalances. Research suggests that vestibular physical therapy can improve both subjective and objective measures of balance in clients with Ménière’s Disease.[iv]
Balance training is tailored to meet individual needs based on comprehensive assessments, and can include training of proprioceptive, vestibular and vision systems. This type of training can be static or dynamic, involve internal or external perturbations all with the goal of improving postural control and stability to decrease the risk of falls.
At Propel Physiotherapy we have specialized therapists trained in vestibular therapy that can help to manage and alleviate the symptoms of this disease. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Ménière’s disease or is experiencing similar symptoms, contact us for a complementary consultation today.