Vestibular System: Definition and What It Is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Maureen Lu, PT, DPT

Vestibular System Definition and Meaning

The vestibular system — the complex structure of fluid-filled tubes and chambers that make up your inner ear — is primarily responsible for maintaining balance, creating spatial awareness, and coordinating movement.

Anatomy of the Vestibular System

The vestibular system is situated in the inner ear and extends to the brain, comprising two main components: the semicircular canals and the otolith organs. These structures work together to relay information about your head position and motion, enabling the brain to adjust the body's position in space (also known as proprioception). This helps you keep your balance when you’re about to trip and allows you to pivot seamlessly around obstacles like a crack in the sidewalk.

Conditions that affect the vestibular system impact balance and spatial orientation, often causing dizziness, balance issues, and nausea. Vestibular disorders often result in vertigo, which creates a sensation of spinning or dizziness. Conditions that impact the vestibular system can have a significant impact on daily activities and quality of life, leading to challenges in maintaining stability and moving with confidence.

Vestibular System Issues: A Hinge Health Perspective

As you get older, your vestibular system ages along with the rest of you. This makes it harder for the nerves of your vestibular system to send signals to your brain, which can impact your balance and, in some cases, make falls more common.

As a result, you may be shakier when you move and less confident in your stability. When that happens, you may further limit your activity — an understandable reaction, however, one that only exacerbates the problem and often leads to impaired function, frailty, and injuries.

That’s why it’s important to ease into movement with balance training exercises. Movement can retrain brain-body feedback loops, improve your balance, and make you more confident to get up and move around — all of which can lead to better overall health.

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Vestibular System Conditions

Physical therapy can be beneficial for managing vestibular system issues. Through personalized treatment plans, physical therapists (PTs) can recommend specific exercises to improve balance, reduce vertigo symptoms like dizziness, and enhance overall quality of life. By gradually increasing the complexity of the exercises, people can often see significant improvements in their symptoms. You can use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit to address balance issues related to musculoskeletal conditions. Diagnosed vestibular conditions may need to be treated with an in-person PT who specializes in vestibular rehabilitation.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Casale, J., Browne, T., Murray, I. V., & Gupta, G. (2024). Physiology, Vestibular System. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. 

  2. Wilson, K. (n.d.). Vestibular System. Physiopedia. 

  3. Dunsky, A. (2019). The Effect of Balance and Coordination Exercises on Quality of Life in Older Adults: A Mini-Review. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 11(318). doi:10.3389/fnagi.2019.00318

  4. Shupert, C. Balance and Aging. Vestibular Disorders Association.

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