What are the Different Balance Therapy Exercises?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 18 February 2020
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Balance therapy exercises, also known as vestibular rehabilitation therapy, include classic Cawthorne-Cooksey standing and sitting exercises, alternative martial arts-based exercises, and individualized therapy, which occasionally relies on sports equipment and computers for virtual reality exercises. All three categories of balance therapy exercises use tilting and swaying to simulate conditions for dizziness and falling. At the same time, they require counter moves so that those with neuromuscular deficiencies can regain balance and relearn stability.

Cawthorne-Cooksey exercises were the original way that doctors handled balance problems for those suffering from vertigo or other losses of equilibrium due to injury, disease, or aging. These classic maneuvers are frequently divided into four categories: eye movements, sitting, standing, and motion exercises. They are frequently performed using standard household equipment such as a chair, a bed, and an even floor in a room without sharp edges or other hazards.

One Cawthorne-Cooksey eye exercise involves sitting on the edge of a bed while moving the eyes slowly up and down and then from one side to the other for 10 to 30 repetitions. The hardest Cawthorne-Cooksey balance therapy exercises are the motion exercises. They involve walking in circles or up and down stairs with eyes alternately opened and closed.


In the mid-1990s, audiologists and physical therapists began to develop more individualized therapy instead of using the Cawthorne-Cooksey moves for everyone diagnosed with balance deficiencies. These customized balance therapy exercises still included typical techniques such as gaze stabilization, but leveraged the use of props. For example, in one gazing exercise, patients might rotate their heads while trying to keep the eyes locked on objects held in front of them by therapists.

Individualized visual dependence exercises include moving about a familiar environment with the eyes veiled. Customized vestibular therapy also involves the use of tilt boards and outdoor sandy areas to test over-reliance on ankles for balance, a condition formally known as somatosensory dependence. Otholithic recalibration, which uses trampolines and Swiss balls, is an additional part of individualized balance therapy exercises and is used to improve coordination between ears and eyes. The ears are a major part of balance training, because balance is controlled by the vestibular system, which is located in the inner ear and is linked to the way fluid moves inside the ear.

Many patients elect alternative types of balance therapy exercises which involve the use of Eastern fitness moves known for promoting balance. Yoga and tai-chi are used by many patients to strengthen coordination and motion steadiness. Pilates is another alternative therapy used to regain the posture and proper body alignment necessary to balance while moving and standing. These alternative forms offer the additional benefit of increasing strength and flexibility so that injuries from falling are minimized. Gyrokinesis® is a final alternative therapy that involves fluid motion exercises to fight balance disorders.


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Post 3

Anyone undergoing balance therapy exercises for vertigo should ask his or her doctor about special glasses to wear. Glasses with prisms in the lenses are available, and help patients focus and retrain their brains while they are recovering from vertigo.

Post 2

I had a lot of problems with vertigo following a car accident. For me, the best type of balance therapy was to focus on an object on the wall, close my eyes and move my head, then try to re-focus on the object before opening my eyes. At first I couldn't even get close to finding the fixed object, but I got better at this exercise over time. In turn, my vertigo symptoms and my balance improved.

Anyone who wants to give this balance therapy exercise a try should talk to his or her doctor first to make sure it's safe to do. Also, he or she should be aware that when vertigo therapy exercises are started, the dizziness gets worse at first. It is frustrating to deal with, but it does get better with a commitment to a regular balance therapy routine.

Post 1

Walking in general is great balance therapy for people with vertigo. My doctor told me to take a walk around my local park at least 3 times a week to help control the symptoms of my vertigo.

Though I can't do this exercise when I am very dizzy, I do try to walk a little each day. I have found that it makes me feel less dizzy and also give me more energy. This is beneficial too because when I feel tired, my vertigo symptoms are worse.

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