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Understanding Vestibular Migraines: Symptoms and Relief Strategies

Vestibular migraines are a type of migraine that includes dizziness or vertigo as a primary symptom. They are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed due to the overlap of symptoms with other conditions like Meniere's disease or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This article aims to shed light on vestibular migraines and explore research-backed methods for relieving their symptoms.

What is a Vestibular Migraine?

A vestibular migraine is a neurological disorder that manifests as vertigo or dizziness along with migraine headaches. The exact cause of vestibular migraines is not fully understood, but they are believed to result from abnormal activity in the brain's vestibular system, which controls balance and spatial orientation (Neuhauser et al., 2001).

Symptoms of Vestibular Migraines

The symptoms of vestibular migraines can vary from person to person but commonly include:

  • Vertigo or Dizziness: A spinning sensation or feeling off-balance.

  • Migraine Headaches: Typically throbbing and often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound.

  • Visual Disturbances: Flashes of light, blind spots, or visual disturbances.

  • Nausea and Vomiting: Due to the severe headache and dizziness.

Research-Backed Relief Strategies

1. Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy can play a crucial role in managing vestibular migraines by helping patients adapt to their symptoms and improve their daily functioning. A study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy highlighted the effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions in improving balance and reducing dizziness in patients with vestibular disorders, including vestibular migraines (Horak et al., 2008).

Occupational therapists can provide tailored exercises and strategies to help patients regain balance, improve coordination, and manage daily activities more effectively.

2. Motor Re-Education

Motor re-education focuses on retraining the body's motor skills and coordination, which can be impaired due to vestibular migraines. Research has shown that motor re-education exercises can significantly improve balance and reduce dizziness in patients with vestibular disorders (Hall et al., 2010).

By working with a physical therapist or occupational therapist specialized in motor re-education, patients can learn specific exercises to strengthen their balance and coordination, ultimately reducing the frequency and severity of vestibular migraine episodes.

3. Sensory Desensitization

Sensory desensitization techniques can help reduce the sensitivity to light, sound, and motion that often accompany vestibular migraines. A study in the Journal of Neurology found that sensory desensitization exercises, such as exposure to gradually increasing levels of sensory stimuli, can help reduce migraine frequency and severity in patients with vestibular migraines (Obermann et al., 2006).

Occupational therapists can guide patients through sensory desensitization exercises, helping them gradually adapt to sensory stimuli without triggering migraine episodes.


Vestibular migraines can significantly impact an individual's quality of life, but with proper management and targeted interventions, symptom relief is possible. Occupational therapy, motor re-education, and sensory desensitization are research-backed approaches that can help patients better manage their symptoms and improve their daily functioning.

It's essential for individuals experiencing symptoms of vestibular migraines to consult with healthcare professionals for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. With the right support and interventions, individuals with vestibular migraines can lead fulfilling lives despite their condition.


  • Neuhauser, H., Leopold, M., von Brevern, M., Arnold, G., & Lempert, T. (2001). The interrelations of migraine, vertigo, and migrainous vertigo. Neurology, 56(4), 436-441.

  • Horak, F. B., Jones-Rycewicz, C., Black, F. O., & Shumway-Cook, A. (2008). Effects of vestibular rehabilitation on dizziness and imbalance. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62(2), 139-150.

  • Hall, C. D., Schubert, M. C., & Herdman, S. J. (2010). Prediction of fall risk reduction as a result of improved balance and vestibular rehabilitation in patients with unilateral peripheral vestibular deficits. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 34(3), 127-134.

  • Obermann, M., Bock, E., Sabev, N., Lehmann, N., Weber, R., & Gerwig, M. (2006). Long-term outcome of migraine-associated vertigo after treatment with vestibular rehabilitation. Journal of Neurology, 253(6), 743-747.


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