Physical Therapy for Vertebral Artery Dissection & Strokes

*** This information is merely informative and not intended as a recommendation of treatment.

IMPORTANT:  The kind of physical therapy for recovery from a vertebral artery dissection will depend
upon the kind of damage it causes and the severity of that damage.

In the future, I would like to add information about doctors and therapists who specialize in vertebral artery dissections.  If you know of a doctor who specializes in vertebral artery dissection or even has a great deal of experience with them, please email me.

Physical Therapy for Vestibular Rehabilitation (Regaining Normal Balance)

AA common problem for vertebral artery dissection patients is vestibular damage (damage to the inner ear which helps control balance). This causes difficulty with balance as well as nausea and dizziness. Vestibular therapy for vestibular reconditioning will be based on activities and exercises that improve balance and muscular control of the affected area.

Patients who experienced a stroke caused by a vertebral artery dissection may find some of the exercises to be very tiring but helpful - to both the vestibular issues and for general conditioning.

Standing/Sitting Toe-Touch Exercise

You can also do this exercise while sitting.  The most important thing is to control your movements.

Regaining Balance: Examples of Therapy for Vestibular Reconditioning

  • Standing toe touch - (see video above) the patient will stand in place on one foot (holding onto something sturdy such as the Medline Folding Rollator Walker for balance if necessary) and, with the other foot, touch marked points along a semi-circle that extends from one side to in front, to another. A slightly advanced version (see video) of this is to place rocks or marbles at some points which the patient picks up with his/her toes and placed on another marked point.
  • Standing toe-to-wall - (see video page) the patient will stand in place on one foot facing a wall and use the free foot to tap the ground next to the planted foot and then touch a marked place on the wall. The marks do not need to be high - 3 marks at 6, 10, and 12 inches would be fine. (tap ground mark, tap wall mark, tap ground, tap wall...)
  • Walking toe-to-heel - the patient should use a balance rail such as the PortaBarre- 4.5 Ft Length Ballet Bar or the Advantage Rail™ Floor Mounted Grab Bar and walk carefully while looking ahead and with each step should place the heel of the front foot against the toe of the rear foot. A more advanced version will include the use of cones to step over or around or the exercise can be done backwards.
  • Tai-Chi - while Tai Chi cannot be fully explained here, it is a form of martial arts using a great deal of balance. It is effective for vestibular reconditioning because of its slow movements, focus on breathing and control, and its excellent conditioning and strengthening benefits. I recommend Scott Cole's Discover Tai Chi for Beginners - Workout Essentials or Tai Chi for Beginners.

See some of the products that helped me get through rehabilitation faster.

Read Life After a Stroke: A Guide for Survivors, Families, & Caregivers

More On Videos Page

See rehabilitation and informational videos on the Rehab Videos page.

In the future will include more information about doctors, therapies, and products and even information to help doctors give better care to VAD patients.


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