What causes Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) and what’s the treatment?

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is caused by an anomaly in the inner ear. If you suffer from BPPV, you may experience dizziness, vomiting and a sensation of the room spinning. You might notice your eyes jump a little too, which is known as nystagmus. It can be a debilitating condition for some sufferers but luckily there are easy ways to ease the symptoms with physiotherapy and tailored treatment. 

At Progressive Physiotherapy Group in Warragul, we diagnose and treat patients who suffer from BPPV using a series of gentle movements. We can decrease, and even eliminate your symptoms entirely, so that you can go about your everyday life without feeling dizzy and unsettled. 

What causes BPPV?

Are you ready for the sciencey bit? Here we go! 

BPPV is caused by tiny crystals, known as otoconia, coming loose from their usual home and flowing freely around your inner ear. While they’re having their free-flowing party, they can drift into your semicircular canals (SCC), which are the clever bits that sense when you move your head. 

Now, this is all fine while you’re keeping still. But the minute you move your head into a certain position, for example when you stand up, sit down, turn left or right, or move from seated to standing – the otoconia move to the lower part of your canal which lets fluid flow into the SCC. 

(Still with us? We’re nearly there.)

When the fluid hits your SCC, it stimulates your balance nerve and that’s when you experience vertigo or nystagmus, where your eyes jump a little. 

Why have I got BPPV?

There are many reasons why you might have BPPV so it can be hard to find one reason why you’re experiencing it. 

Here are a few issues that can cause BPPV:

  • A head injury (mild or severe)
  • An inner ear disease
  • Holding your head in an unnatural position for a sustained period of time 
  • Cycling on a bumpy track 
  • Old age (this condition is more common as we get older) 
  • This can even show up when you’re pregnant, but don’t worry as we can help alleviate the symptoms. It normally fully resolves once your baby arrives.  

What’s the treatment for BPPV?

The great news is that we can diagnose and treat the most common cases of BPPV without resorting to medication or surgery. There are two maneuvers we take you through to diagnose and treat your BPPV, which will remove the crystals from the semicircular canal and ease your symptoms. 

Here’s what you can expect when you come for treatment for BPPV:

1 – We check your spine

The first thing we’ll do is a full assessment of your cervical spine (your neck) focussing up your upper three joints to find out if these are contributing to your symptoms.  We always check everything above and below an area that is causing you pain or dysfunction so we can address everything and make sure nothing gets overlooked.

2 – The Dix-Hallpike Maneuver 

We use the Dix-Hallpike Maneuver to diagnose your BPPV. With this treatment we take you through an easy range of movements to try and find the trigger for your vertigo. We’ll be looking for the exact movement that causes your BPPV and checking for other symptoms, such as nystagmus, where your eyes jump around for a short period of time. 

While the diagnosis will be easy on your body, it’s likely you’ll experience some symptoms of your BPPV during the appointment, such as vertigo and dizziness. We recommend avoiding driving or booking anything strenuous after your appointment or until the symptoms have passed. 

3 – The Epley Maneuver

We use the Epley Maneuver to treat BPPV by shifting those pesky crystals and easing your vertigo symptoms. 

With this maneuver, you’ll be asked to move your head 45 degrees to the right or left, then quickly lie back keeping your head turned. We then move your head 90 degrees to the other side and ask you to lie down on the bed again.

This is straightforward treatment but you might feel a little unwell afterwards, so try not to book anything strenuous afterwards in case you feel unsteady on your feet.

Your BPPV symptoms should ease straight away or it can take a few sessions to feel relief. We’ll show you how to do these exercises at home, so you can continue your treatment if BPPV symptoms reoccur. 

By doing the Epley Maneuver, your symptoms can disappear for months or years. It is normal for BPPV to return, however, when another crystal dislodges and finds its way to your semicircular canals. When this happens, you can try the treatment at home by yourself or give us a call anytime.

You spin me right round, baby right round 

If you need diagnosis or treatment for BPPV in Warragul or Gippsland, then give Di a call to book in with our friendly team or book online. Come and visit us in our comfortable treatment room and let’s get those crystals shifted!