When Jessica Ryan, PT, DPT, joined Bacharach four years ago, she didn’t know what specific area of therapy she wanted to focus on – until she discovered balance and vestibular therapy.
“Bacharach was perfect for me because I was able to work with a variety of patients dealing with all different types of conditions,” says Jessica. “This allowed me to gain experience with different diagnoses and I eventually found my passion for vestibular therapy for balance and concussion.”
Patients who have a vestibular disorder experience a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, blurry vision and/or headaches. Vestibular disorders include, but are not limited to, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), Vestibular Migraines, Vestibular Neuritis and Post-Concussion Syndrome.
Physical therapists play a vital role in the management of patients dealing with these disorders. “I was drawn to this specialty because I get to spend a lot of my time acting as a ‘detective,’” explains Jessica. “There are many health conditions that can cause the same symptoms as a vestibular disorder. It is very important that we confirm it’s a vestibular issue and not a blood pressure issue or something more serious.”
Jessica evaluates each patient and creates an individualized care plan to specifically treat their deficits. “Vestibular disorders are often ‘invisible’ – it’s not something you can outwardly tell someone is dealing with. Depending on the severity, symptoms can have a profound effect on a patient’s quality of life, affecting all aspects of their daily routine,” says Jessica. “The goal of vestibular therapy is to reduce symptoms and improve balance, motion tolerance, endurance, and ability to see clearly so that they can accomplish their daily tasks.”
Otago Fall Prevention Program
Jessica also works with patients in the Otago Exercise and Fall Prevention Program, a physical therapy program offered at Bacharach that focuses on helping patients maintain their strength and balance over time.
“My favorite part of the Otago program is the continued support we give our patients after they transfer to the home exercises component of the program,” said Jessica. “We call patients to check on their progress, to make sure they are continuing with their exercises and to talk about any new developments they are experiencing.”
Jessica has been able to transition some of her vestibular patients into the Otago program. The program significantly improves the mobility of a patient experiencing frequent falls and imbalance issues.
“Physical therapy not only helps patients physically, but mentally as well,” said Jessica. “Patients dealing with a vestibular disorder or recent fall often stop engaging in everyday activities because of their fear and the limitations caused by their symptoms. The strength patients gain through physical therapy gives them back their confidence to go out and enjoy life again.”
Jessica often sees patients who have been told that nothing can be done to treat their conditions. “Sometimes I am the first person to tell people that there is the possibility for them to get better,” says Jessica. “There is no greater feeling than giving people their hope back.”