JOHNSON CITY (May 26, 2016) – A faculty member in East Tennessee State University’s College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences has helped draft the first-ever clinical guidelines relating to vestibular rehabilitation in physical therapy.
Dr. Courtney Hall, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and resesarch health scientist at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center, specializes in vestibular rehabilitation, a form of therapy intended to alleviate primary and secondary problems caused by vestibular (inner ear balance) disorders. Vestibular rehabilitation primarily aims to reduce dizziness, vertigo and falls from imbalance.
“There are guidelines for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, but there have not been any established for vestibular rehabilitation,” Hall said. “About four years ago, I reached out to a colleague and said we needed to develop these clinical practice guidelines.”
Hall, along with a colleague from the University of Pittsburgh and a professor emerita from Emory University, have been working on those guidelines ever since.
“It has been a process,” Hall noted. “We consulted with a committee of physical therapists, audiologists, neurologists, ENTs and patient advocates on this because we needed to have input from multiple disciplines.”
The process also involved a systematic literature research, determining what the best practices are based on evidence from the field over the last several years.
The clinical practice guidelines include 10 recommendations, or “action statements,” related to the treatment of patients with vestibular disorders. “We also identify knowledge gaps – those areas where the research and evidence are still missing,” Hall said. “Hopefully, researchers will start to fill in those gaps.”
The guidelines are sanctioned by the American Physical Therapy Association and last month they were published in the Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy.
“These guidelines are really to benefit both the patients and the clinicians,” Hall said. “Patients can read about vestibular rehabilitation and understand what a physical therapist does to treat dizziness. And it is a resource for clinicians in that it sets the stage for what the standard of care is based on what the research and evidence show. Hopefully, it will reduce unwarranted variations in care.”
The guidelines are required to be updated every five years to keep up with the current evidence.