Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (vertigo for short) is a dysfunction in the vestibular system located in the inner ear. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is characterized by brief periods of spinning or dizziness when changing positions. The positions that most likely trigger feelings of dizziness are looking up, lying on a flat surface, or turning on your side.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo affects the semicircular canals located in the inner ear. Feelings of dizziness occur when crystals or otoconia break off and move into the semicircular canals. In a normal inner ear, the semicircular canals do not have any crystals. These crystals are found in another part of the inner ear called the utricle. When conditions arise such as infection, virus, head trauma, or aging crystals breaking off the utricle and landing in the semicircular canals, a person may experience short bouts of spinning or dizziness.
In a dysfunctional inner ear, the crystals (sometimes called “ear rocks”) will be free floating in the canals. When the head is moved into a specific position, it causes the crystals to move through the canals. This movement of the crystals through the semicircular canals causes nerve endings in the inner ear to become stimulated and results in a dizzy or spinning sensation. These positions are specific to the orientation of the canals and are extremely predictable. It is typical for individuals with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo to decrease the frequency of symptoms by avoiding these predictable positions.
Some people may just try to avoid positions that make them dizzy, but you will be happy to know that Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo is easily treatable through physical therapy techniques called Canalith Repositioning Maneuvers. This technique move the crystals back into the utricle where they belong, causing symptoms of dizziness to resolve.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VERTIGO
- How long do bouts of dizziness last?
The dizzy sensation is called vertigo. When the head is moved into a specific position, dizziness will last a few seconds and usually no longer than 30 seconds.
- What does vertigo feel like?
When a person experiences vertigo, they typically feel like the room is spinning. But often people will not feel the spinning sensation. They will feel milder symptoms of lightheadedness, nausea, or imbalance.
- How does someone know if his/her dizziness is caused by Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo?
Vertigo is diagnosed by a specialized vestibular therapist or your doctor by performing positional testing. During these positional tests, the therapist looks at involuntary eye movements called nystagmus. Based on the direction of the nystagmus, along with the specific position that provokes the symptoms, the therapist can determine in which canal the crystals are located.
- How can a vestibular therapist help with vertigo?
Once the therapist determines which canal is involved from positional testing and observing the direction of the involuntary eye movements, they can come up with a plan to treat vertigo. Using Canalith Repositioning Maneuvers, which are a series of head movements, the therapist can help guide the crystals back into their correct location. Once the crystals are back in the utricle, patients will not have positional dizziness any longer.
- How many treatments does it take to treat vertigo?
Vertigo is usually treated in less than three therapy sessions. There is often a 90% reduction in symptoms following the first visit.