A randomized controlled trial of exercise therapy for dizziness and vertigo in primary care.
Br J Gen Pract. 1998 Apr;48(429):1136-40. PMID: 9667087
BACKGROUND: 'Vestibular rehabilitation' (VR) is an increasingly popular treatment option for patients with persistent dizziness. Previous clinical trials have only evaluated the effects of specialist therapy programmes in small, selective, or uncontrolled patient samples. AIM: To determine the benefits of VR compared with standard medical care, using a brief intervention for dizzy patients in primary care. METHOD: Adults consulting their general practitioner (GP) with dizziness or vertigo were randomly assigned to treatment or control groups. Patients in both groups received the same evaluation at baseline, six-week follow-up, and six-month follow-up, comprising examination of nystagmus, postural control, and movement-provoked dizziness, and a questionnaire assessment of subjective status, symptoms, handicap, anxiety, and depression. At baseline and six weeks later, the treatment group also received an individualized 30-minute therapy session, in which they were taught head, eye, and body exercises designed to promote vestibular compensation and enhance skill and confidence in balance. RESULTS: The treatment group (n = 67) improved on all measures, whereas the control group (n = 76) showed no improvement, resulting in a significant difference between the two groups on physical indices of balance and subjective indices of symptoms and distress. Odds ratios for improvement in treated patients relative to untreated patients were 3.1:1 at six weeks (95% CI = 1.4-6.8) and 3.8:1 at six months (95% CI = 1.6-8.7). CONCLUSION: VR is a simple, inexpensive, and beneficial treatment, and may be an appropriate first stage of management for many dizzy patients in primary care.