Background and purpose: Persistent mal de debarquement is an uncommon disorder occurring after a sea voyage, or a plane or train trip. Symptoms include unsteadiness, rocking sensation, visual motion intolerance, cognitive slowing, and excessive fatigue. It is thought to be a result of faulty multisensory adaptation. The purpose of this case report was to describe the use of sensory reweighting, a therapeutic approach aimed at reweighting the balance between the 3 sensory systems, to decrease symptoms and increase functional abilities of a woman with persistent mal de debarquement.
Case description: A 69-year-old woman with a 4-year history of persistent mal de debarquement after a plane trip reported a constant feeling of rocking, unsteadiness, and a loss of balance in low lighting or visually rich environments. She experienced a previous fall and had limited her social activities because of her symptoms.
Interventions: Sensory reweighting therapy was administered twice a week for 10 weeks. Activities included balance training using vestibular, somatosensory, and visual challenges to vary the sensory input available.
Outcomes: A 5-point increase was observed on the Berg Balance Scale, she doubled her balance time in tandem stance position, and improved from moderate to low impairment on the Dizziness Handicap Inventory. She had a significant change on the Global Rating of Change Scale. Subjectively, she felt she had improved 50% and was less disabled.
Discussion: A rehabilitation approach aimed at sensory reweighting improved this patient's function and community reintegration. Her symptoms were reduced and stability and balance improved.