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Therapy Focus – Vertigo (BPPV)

At some point in our lives approximately 70% of us will experience an episode of vertigo. It can range from mild dizziness to vomiting and can impact on our daily lives quite significantly.

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a very common disorder of the inner ear and is medically referred to as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV. As the name implies, it is not life threatening. It can come on very suddenly and is associated with movement of the head. It impacts our lives because the inner ear contributes to maintaining our balance. Any disruption to this can lead to dizziness, nausea and, potentially, falls. It is thought that little crystals of calcium carbonate (chalk) become loose in the inner ear and as we move our head into a particular position they bounce off the inside of the inner ear and make us feel dizzy.

What causes BPPV?

There are a number of ways these crystals can become a problem:

  • Ear infections
  • Head or Ear injuries
  • Meniere’s Disease Vestibular Neuritis
  • Minor strokes

What are the symptoms of BPPV?

  • The most common symptoms are:
  • Sudden onset of extreme dizziness (vertigo)
  • Nausea
  • Uncontrolled flicking of the eyes (nystagmus)
  • Certain head movements can trigger the attacks

How do you treat BPPV?

Treatment can be remarkably straight forward and very effective day one. An assessment of your medical history can reveal other contributing factors to your dizziness such as neck involvement or low blood pressure which may need to be addressed first. A physiotherapist can treat you with special manoeuvres that dislodge the crystals and resolve the BPPV. These manoeuvres are effective 80% of the time on first application, but sometimes a second or occasionally a third visit is required. Your physio will also advise you on ways to manage BPPV and reduce the possibility of further attacks.