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Vestibular System and Concussion

Vestibular System and Concussion

Why Does a Concussion Make You Feel Dizzy?

Have you ever been to an amusement park and taken a ride on the spinning teacups? How did you feel during the ride and after it stopped? How about when you tried to walk off the ride? What about this photo? Are you feeling a bit dizzy and nauseous even at the thought? That is exactly what it feels like if you are suffering from a vestibular concussion. The good news is that after a few moments you will recover. For those suffering from a concussion, with trauma to the vestibular system, that feeling does not go away. The bad news for some people is that it may be a lifelong injury.

What is the vestibular system?

When we think of a concussion, we imagine a blow to the head with symptoms such as headache, nausea, and memory problems, but there can also be trauma to your vestibular system. If you have never heard of the vestibular system you are not alone. Inside your inner ear there are many tiny different parts working together sending signals to your brain about your body’s position in space, and balance.  In other words, it keeps you upright when you walk, prevents you from feeling dizzy when you move your body, eyes or head, and helps you judge distance, so you do not bump into things.

Vestibular imbalance vs. vertigo

Isn’t this vertigo? The symptoms of vestibular concussion all seem to fit what we think of as vertigo, not a vestibular imbalance. The difference between vertigo and vestibular imbalance is that vertigo is the sensation that you or the room is spinning. Vestibular imbalance is the sensation of just dizziness, disorientation, and a general feeling of unsteadiness, you do not experience a spinning sensation.

What happens when the vestibular system is damaged?

Your vestibular system is responsible for balancing your body.  The body adjusts its position and weight to changes in surfaces, texture, structure, and height. One example of a vestibular system imbalance stepping from the sidewalk to the grass. If your system is not functioning properly it takes thought and effort to maintain balance and prevent you from falling when you change from one surface to another. Your eyes, muscles and joints sensory input must all work together, sight, touch, and movement. A simple movement, like shaking your head, can cause you to experience nausea, dizziness and lose your balance. Trauma to the vestibular system makes tracking moving objects, in any direction, very difficult. Additional symptoms include, hearing loss, vision problems, ringing in your ears, and severe headaches.


Following a concussion, it is important to have your vestibular system assessed by a physical therapist. They will look at all the areas that could be impacted and determine the best therapeutic plan to help improve your level of function. Therapy will focus on reducing headaches, dizziness, and imbalance.

Types of Treatment

  • Gaze stabilization: This is used for people that have trouble reading, writing (especially copying from screens), and dizziness when walking or driving.
  • Habituation Exercise: These exercises help people that have trouble when bending over.
  • Balance Training: This type of training improves steadiness and endurance in physical activities.

How long will it take to recover?

The brain requires training and practice just as your body does if it were training for an athletic competition or studying for an exam at school. How long it takes, and the level of recovery, depends on your injury. When you start the rehabilitation process your symptoms may at first seem worse. As you continue training with consistency you should see your symptoms decrease. Vestibular symptoms may last for 6 months or longer.

What can trigger a vestibular imbalance sensation.

  • Loud crowded areas
  • Rapid head movement
  • Busy environments such as, shopping centres

How can a personal injury lawyer help?

The consequences of a vestibular concussion can be devastating. Not only in the loss of income, but in your quality of life. Traumatic injury lawyers Robyn Wishart and Michelle Sagert are here to help you understand what your options are if you are suffering from a vestibular concussion. Neufeldt v. Marcellus is an example of one such client they successfully represented, in the BC Supreme court, making all the difference in their client’s quality of life. Your first consultation is always free.

This blog is intended for information purposes only and never intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, treatment provided, or recommended by any medical professional. Always consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your health, and especially before trying any new therapy or treatment.