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Get The Facts

Balance problems & dizziness after a brain injury

Information Services
 
 

Brain injury effects

Balance problems & dizziness after a brain injury

Dizziness and balance problems are common after a brain injury, and can result in problems with movement even when there is no loss of function in the limbs themselves.

Our sense of balance comes from the interaction of three systems in our body - our eyesight, the inner ear (the vestibular system), and proprioception which is our brain's ability to sense where parts of our body are spatially. 

 

Problems with balance can stem from damage to any parts of these systems, and a brain injury can affect all three. For example the trauma of a traumatic brain injury can damage the inner ear, while a stroke could affect parts of the brain responsible for our sense of balance.

 

Other possible causes include: 

  • infection or trauma to the inner ear 
  • low blood pressure
  • medication side effects. 

 

Diagnosis of dizziness or balance problems

Due to this complexity, diagnosis usually involves a thorough medical examination, which may start with your GP and could go on to involve physiotherapists, neurologists, neurosurgeons and optometrists. Tests may include a CT scan, MRI scan or EEG reading.

 

Write down all your symptoms in detail and take these to your doctor or rehabilitation team. Include what you were doing at the time of your symptoms, what else was happening, and the time of day. Also take a list of all your medications.


Treatment options

 

Treatment depends upon the nature of the balance disorder, and if a specific cause can be identified. If the specific cause is treatable, then that is the best option. Some conditions can be improved with dietary changes such as reducing salt, caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. 

Another treatment option is vestibular rehabilitation - balance retraining exercises which are sometimes combined with electrical stimulation or biofeedback to more effectively train the muscles. Physical aids are somtimes used along with therapy,  such as braces, splints or moulded shoe inserts.


Other treatments involving training the brain can include training an individual to rely more heavily on visual cues if proprioception can no longer be completely trusted.

Invasive surgical procedures that may be used can include correction of joint or limb contraction, shortening or lengthening limbs or, in some cases, severing proprioceptive nerves to prevent contradictory feedback.

None of these techniques, as useful and effective as they can be, should happen in isolation. Environmental modifications, such as the addition of handrails in the home or the use of a walking stick or frame, and safety education, are also desirable.

 

Coping strategies

If you have not yet been able to access treatment, or if it is not yet working, there are some tips you can follow to improve your quality of life while suffering from a traumatic brain injury or other type of  brain disorder affecting your balance:

 

  • Don't use alcohol and other drugs
  •  Get out of bed slowly and allow time to adjust to changed body posture
  •  Stop the moment dizziness starts and sit or lie down until it passes
  • Avoid or slow down movements that unbalance you
  • Sleep without a pillow to keep your neck and backbone perfectly straight
  • Cut down on salt as this can increase the sensation of vertigo
  • Pinpoint times or conditions when dizziness is worse, and avoid those conditions or schedule activities to avoid those times. 

 

 

 

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