by Ross Pope, PT, DPT
Have you ever laid down at night or turned your head quickly and suddenly become dizzy? Was your first instinct to run and buy meclizine? Did this help temporarily only to have your dizziness return? Throughout this blog, my goal is to educate you about the definition, signs/symptoms, and treatment of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) or simply put, vertigo.
BPPV or vertigo is a vestibular condition where crystals that are produced by the body become dislodged in our posterior semicircular canal, which is located in the inner ear. This is very important because the posterior semicircular canal is responsible for detecting head rotation. When the crystals become dislodged, they produce an increase in fluid which will ultimately give way to a false sense of movement and feelings of dizziness.
Causes of vertigo are very vague, and in most cases there is no specific event that triggers it. Vertigo can occur at anytime, but it mostly happens after quick head movements and is very sudden. Movements that trigger vertigo include looking up/down, turning your head while walking down a grocery aisle, or, most commonly, lying down at night. People who experience vertigo usually become very dizzy, nauseated, and unsteady.
Most people probably wonder how physical therapy can help vertigo. Physical therapy begins with a detailed, thorough evaluation that includes tests that will rule in/out BPPV. Once BPPV has been diagnosed, the PT will perform specific maneuvers which will place the crystals in a position to dissolve, which alleviates the symptoms of vertigo.
Vertigo is a very debilitating condition, but the good news is that 70-80% of cases can be cured through a few physical therapy treatments. If you ever experience vertigo or think you are experiencing vertigo, consult with a PT or recommend PT to your primary care physician.