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Vestibular functioning and migraine: comparing those with and without vertigo to a normal population

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 October 2013

B J Baker*
Physical Therapy Department, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
A Curtis
Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Department, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, USA
P Trueblood
Physical Therapy Department, California State University, Fresno, USA
E Vangsnes
Physician Assistants Department, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, USA
Address for correspondence: Dr B J Baker, Physical Therapy Department, Grand Valley State University, 301 Michigan St NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546, USA Fax: 001-616-331-5654 E-mail:



This study compared vestibular functioning in a migrainous vertigo group, a migraine without vertigo group and a control group. It was hypothesised that the migrainous vertigo group would perform worse in tests of vestibular function and gait than the other groups during a non-migrainous period.


Sixty-six participants (22 per group) were assessed using the head shake sensory organisation test, the gaze stabilisation test, the dynamic visual acuity test and the functional gait assessment. Separate analyses of variance and planned pair-wise comparisons (alpha = 0.05) were performed.


There was a difference between the results of the non-migraine group and the two migraine groups for the gaze stabilisation pitch test (p < 0.003), in which the control group showed faster head movement. There were also group differences in functional gait (p < 0.0001); the control group scored highest and the migrainous vertigo group scored lowest. There were no differences in the vestibular spinal reflex and balance tests.


These findings indicate underlying differences in the vestibular ocular reflexes and function of migraine sufferers compared with those who do not suffer migraines, but the difference is most pronounced for those with migrainous vertigo. This suggests that vestibular rehabilitation for migrainous vertigo should focus on vestibular ocular reflexes and functional retraining.

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Copyright © JLO (1984) Limited 2013 

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Presented orally at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting, 20–24 January 2013, San Diego, California, USA.


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