Chris A. McGibbon, David E. Krebs, Steven L. Wolf, Peter M. Wayne,
Donna Moxley Scarborough and Stephen W. Parker
Journal of Vestibular Research 14 (2004) 467–478 467 IOS Press
Tai Chi (TC) is a comparatively new intervention for peripheral vestibular hypofunction, which is often treated with vestibular rehabilitation (VR). We compared gaze stability (GZS), whole-body stability (WBS) and footfall stability (FFS) during locomotion among 26 people with vestibulopathy (VSP), randomized into two treatment arms (13 TC and 13 VR). Each intervention program was offered for 10 weeks. GZS improved more for VR than for TC, but WBS (and FFS) improved more for TC than for VR. There was a significant relationship between changes in GZS and WBS for the VR subjects (r = 0.60, p = 0.01), but not for TC subjects. There was a significant relationship between changes in WBS and FFS for both VR (r = 0.65, p < 0.01) and TC (r = 0.58, p = 0.02) groups; the relationship disappeared in the VR but not the TC group when controlling for GZS. These findings suggest that VR and TC both benefit patients with VSP but via differing mechanisms. Moreover, these data are the first to test the assumption that improving gaze control among patients with VSP perforce improves postural stability: it does not. We conclude that GZS is most improved in those who receive VR, but that TC improves WBS and FFS without improving GZS, suggesting patients with VSP can rely on non-gaze related mechanisms to improve postural control.