Dizziness is a significant problem – ranking 2nd only to the lower back for frequency of complaints in the adult population.
The vestibular system, or balance system, is the sensory system that helps control our eye movements and keep us upright so we can sit, stand, and walk. When we get dizzy, it is often because something has gone wrong with our vestibular system.
One of the most common ways for the vestibular system to mis-function is a condition called BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).
What is BPPV, and how does it cause dizziness?
BPPV causes dizziness when small crystals are formed and collect within the semi-circular canals of the inner ear. The formation of these crystals is most commonly caused by head injury or infection in people under 50. Among older people, simple degeneration of the vestibular system can cause crystal formation.
BPPV can make you dizzy, make it hard to keep your balance, and make you feel sick to your stomach. Getting out of bed, rolling over in bed, or even looking up while standing or sitting can be enough to bring on these symptoms.
Symptoms of BPPV tend to come and go, but for many people are severe enough to diminish their quality of life.
Treatment of BPPV
Medications commonly offered to patients with symptoms of dizziness are primarily designed to alleviate their symptoms by suppressing vestibular system function. Unfortunately this treatment approach can also have sedating side effects that limit the patient’s ability to perform useful activities.
The most effective treatment for BPPV is a procedure called the Epley Manoeuvre. In this treatment, the patient is quickly moved through a series of positions, in a very specific sequence. This causes the crystals that have collected in the semi-circular canals of the inner ear to be removed from the canals – which resolves the problem instantly. A single treatment is effective in approx. 80% of cases, and where a second treatment is necessary, both ears tend to be involved.
If you are experiencing bouts of dizziness, go see your doctor. If you are diagnosed with BPPV, have your doctor refer you to a physiotherapist specially trained in vestibular rehabilitation and the treatment of BPPV.