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The University of Southampton

Project aimed at helping sufferers of dizziness expands to the Netherlands

Published: 11 November 2019
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An online resource proven to help people who regularly suffer from dizziness, developed by the University of Southampton has expanded to Europe.

Researchers at the Amsterdam University Medical Centre (UMC) have created a Dutch version of the Balance Retraining interactive website and studied its effectiveness. Their work builds on the success of an English version of the site which has been running for over two years – helping 3,500 patients to date.

The Balance Retraining online programme offers extensive information about dizziness and ways to handle symptoms and it shows patients how to carry out simple head and neck exercises twice daily for six weeks – adjusting the difficulty level based on reported symptoms by the patient.

The Dutch team compared the effectiveness of the online care with ‘usual care’, both combined with support from a physiotherapist and without. Results show that the online exercises help to reduce symptoms of dizziness, even where no physiotherapy support is provided. The research findings are published in The BMJ.

Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms, especially in the older population. One in ten people aged 65 or over visits their GP at least once a year because of dizziness. An important cause of chronic dizziness is problems with the ‘vestibular system’ in the inner ear which controls our sense of balance. Previous research has shown that for most people with vestibular related dizziness. 

The Balance Retraining website was first developed in 2017, when health psychology and primary care researchers at the University of Southampton proved it reduced dizziness among adults aged 50 and above. The UK study found patients had significantly lower levels of dizziness symptoms after three and six months than those accessing standard care from their GP.

This latest research by Dr Vincent van Vugt and Dr Otto Maarsingh at Amsterdam UMC, developed in collaboration with the University of Southampton, echoes the original UK findings.

In the new study, 322 patients aged 50 years and older who regularly experience dizziness were randomised into one of three groups:

  • online vestibular rehabilitation without support
  • online vestibular rehabilitation with physiotherapeutic support
  • usual care without restrictions

Patients from 59 different general practices in the Netherlands filled out questionnaires at the start of the trial, after three months and after six months.

At three and six months, patients using the online programme with or without physiotherapy support, experienced less dizziness, less disability due to dizziness and less anxiety than patients who only received usual care.

Lucy Yardley, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Southampton explains: “This study shows that the online programme is an effective form of treatment, even if physiotherapy support is not available. Our UK treatment programme has already shown the potential to improve care for a large group of patients with chronic dizziness symptoms and this research by our colleagues in the Netherlands underlines this, while providing further access to much needed support.”

Natasha Harrington-Benton from the UK Meniere’s Society a patient-led charity for people with dizziness, said: “We have been offering the English version of the online Balance Retraining programme on our website for two years, since it was shown to be effective in the UK. We are very pleased to see that it is now starting to be offered to more patients worldwide through this study and other patient groups.”


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