Our traditional "five senses" (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) are important for experiencing the world around us, but there are between 9-21 other commonly-recognized sensory systems which we rely upon. Your most important system? Many argue it is your vestibular system. Learn about this oft-neglected system and why you should train it.
What is "vestibular?"
Vestibular means "of or relating to the vestibule" (of the inner ear). The vestibular system includes parts of the inner ear and brain and is critical for our sense of balance, movement, and spatial orientation.
Why is the vestibular system so important?
Occupational therapists often refer to the vestibular sense is the "king of all your senses." It is closely-tied to other sensory systems and acts as a bridge between information gathered about one's environment and one's own body. Our sense of position, balance, movement, rotation--our sense of reality--is determined by our vestibular system. Without this underappreciated system, we wouldn't be able to stand or walk. Without this system, depersonalization and derealization symptoms occur--even personality changes, as is common among patients with chronic vestibular disorders.
Why is it important to stimulate our vestibular system?
As is true for aspects of physical function, the term "use it or lose it" applies to our balance as well. As we age and become more sedentary, the vestibular system begins to deteriorate. As it declines, fear of falling promotes further lack of movement--further weakening the vestibular system. This can be delayed through exercise and training the vestibular system.
How do I maintain a healthy vestibular system?
Beyond keeping regular exercise routine, engaging in vestibular and somatosensory activities designed to challenge the vestibular system will be most effective. This includes vision stability, postural training, balance training, along with stretching and strengthening exercises. For people with balance, equilibrium or dizziness problems, this is best initiated under the guidance of a specialist.
How successful is balance and vestibular training?
Evidence has shown vestibular training can be highly effective in improving balance. Participants of Mettler's Balance & Vestibular Program have seen some incredible results in the six weeks of training.