A Common Cause of Vertigo

By Ashley Silva, DPT

Have you ever felt like the room is spinning? This sensation is referred to as vertigo and can be bothersome and interfere with your daily activities. The most common cause of vertigo is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Despite the disorder's long name, the treatment is fairly simple and effective.

vertigo

BPPV is caused by a problem in the semicircular canals in your inner ear. The semicircular canals contain fluid and hair-like sensors that send signals to your brain about the position of your head. This helps you maintain your balance and, when not functioning correctly, can put you at risk  for falls. BPPV can occur when tiny calcium particles move into the semicircular canals confusing the signal to your brain. Often symptoms of BPPV are reported with specific changes in the position of your head, such as lying down, rolling over, or tilting your head to look up.


To determine if the cause of your vertigo is BPPV, your doctor or physical therapist will perform a test called the Dix-Hallpike maneuver. The evaluator will move your head in certain positions, looking for abnormal eye movements and asking if the positions reproduce the feeling of spinning.


If this test is positive, the problem can be corrected with the Epley maneuver. This is a sequence of movements that will move the calcium particle out of the semicircular canal. Your doctor or physical therapist can guide you through the movements in a session that will take about 10 minutes. Symptoms are usually resolved with one treatment.


It is important to have any symptoms of vertigo evaluated by your healthcare provider as it can also can be associated with other problems, such as Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuritis, migraine headaches, head or neck injury, stroke, brain tumors, or certain medications.