Vertigo: Senses That Help Your Balance and Position

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Vertigo: Senses That Help Your Balance and Position

Topic Overview

Your brain uses the input from four sensory systems to help maintain balance and position in relation to your surroundings:

  • Vision provides information about your position and motion in relationship to the rest of the world. This is an important part of the balance mechanism and often overrides information from the other balance-sensing systems.
  • Sensory nerves in the joints allow the brain to keep track of the position of the legs, arms, and trunk. Your body is then automatically able to make tiny changes in posture that help maintain balance (proprioception).
  • Skin pressure sensation provides information about position and motion in relationship to gravity.
  • A portion of the inner ear, called the labyrinth, which includes the semicircular canals, contains specialized cells that detect motion and changes in position.

If there is a problem with any of the above systems, you will probably feel dizzy (unsteady) or have vertigo (spinning) or poor balance.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Barrie J. Hurwitz, MD, MD - Neurology
Last Revised February 15, 2011

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