Have you ever experienced vertigo? It is a common symptom that affects a large number of people. Vertigo creates a sense of spinning when you aren’t actually moving. It can worsen with certain head and neck movements. It has the ability to reduce your quality of life and also increase your risk of falling.
It is important to know that Vertigo is not a diagnosis. Other symptoms that accompany Vertigo can include disequilibrium, dizziness, lightheadedness, involuntary eye movement (nystagmus), headache, and nausea. The cause of vertigo is not always the same and seeing a specialist for an accurate diagnosis is important. A common cause of Vertigo is a disorder called Benign Paroxsmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV.
BPPV is a common inner ear problem that affects the vestibular system – this is your balance system, which is located inside your ear. BPPV is caused when small crystals, called Otoconia crystals, dislodge and move into the fluid filled semicircular canals of the inner ear. BPPV is purely mechanical and not related to inner ear anatomy. It is the number one cause of dizziness in patients older than 60. Fifty percent of people older than 70 will experience BPPV. Within three years of having a bout of BPPV, symptoms will return for about 50% of people.
It is diagnosed by a positive finding on what’s called a Dix-Hallpike test (a gold standard test). For this test, a physical therapist places the patient’s head in various positions to assess for an increase in symptoms. BPPV may trouble a person for years with periods of remission and exacerbation. Exacerbation may last weeks to months.
Unfortunately, there are no known ways to prevent BPPV. Furthermore, no medication has been found to cure it. Physical therapy is highly effective method used to treat BPPV. Even with physical therapy treatment, it is possible for symptoms to return if new crystals break off and move into the semicircular canals. Some people report predictable or periodic BPPV that may occur seasonally.
Physical therapy treatment can completely eliminate symptoms in a few visits. Treatment typically consists of a series of head movements that shift particles in the ears. A physical therapist can assess for vertigo to determine its’ severity. From there, a plan of care is developed and exercises are prescribed to help diminish symptoms. A physical therapist can periodically re-evaluate to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
If you are experiencing symptoms of BPPV, like vertigo, and would like to have a physical therapy assessment, you can learn more about our team here.