What are Cawthorne-Cooksey Exercises?

What are Cawthorne-Cooksey Exercises?

The balance parts of the two ears complement each other by sending equal impulses to the brain which are essential for the maintenance of equilibrium of the head and body. either or both balance centres are damaged, equilibrium upset. The result of this is vertigo or giddiness, which may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Although this condition may be very frightening it is not serious, as it does not, in itself, threaten life.

Cawthorne-Cooksey exercises are special exercises that can, in many cases, overcome the difficulties experienced with the disequilibrium. The purpose of these exercises is to build up a tolerance mechanism and the more diligently and regularly they are carried out, the sooner the symptoms will disappear.

How to use the exercises?

  • The exercises should be performed for approximately 10 minutes twice daily.

  • You should perform the exercises daily for maximal benefit.

  • Do not overdo the exercises. If symptoms become too severe, take a break.

  • Begin with exercise 1. Work your way down the exercises within the 10 minutes.

  • Should an exercise make you feel off balance, dizzy or unstable, practice this exercise for the remainder of the 10 minutes.

  • Perform the exercises as directed above on each occasion. Do not proceed with the other exercises until you are able to comfortably do the exercise in question without symptoms.

  • Follow the above until you are able to perform all exercises and keep active on the long term.

  • Try to incorporate some of the principles in your everyday life if possible.

  • You could restart exercises if your symptoms ever return.

Exercise set 1 - In bed or sitting:

  1. Eye movements - Start slowly and then move quicker

    1. Up and down

    2. From side to side

    3. Focusing on finger moving from 60cm to 30cm away from face 

  2. Head movements - Start slowly and then move quicker. Later try with eyes closed. 

    1. Bending forward and backward

    2. Turning from side to side. 


Exercise set 2 - Sitting:

  1. Eye movements and head movements as above

  2. Shoulder shrugging and circling 

  3. Bending forward and picking up objects from the ground


Exercise set 3 - Standing:

  1. Eye, head and shoulder movements as above 

  2. Changing from sitting to standing position with eyes open and shut

  3. Throwing a small ball from hand to hand above eye level 

  4. Throwing a small ball from hand to hand under the knee

  5. Changing from sitting to standing and turning around in between



Information leaflet for patients provided by the Department of Audiovestibular Medicine, St. George's Hospital