What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is the sensation of spinning—even when you’re perfectly still.  You might feel like you’re moving or that the room is moving around you.  

Most causes of vertigo involve the inner ear (“vestibular system”).  One of the most common forms of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), an inner-ear problem that causes short periods of a spinning sensation when your head is moved in certain positions.

BPPV occurs when tiny calcium crystals in the inner ear break off and move to another part.  When you move your head a certain way, the crystals move inside the canal and stimulate the nerve endings, causing you to become dizzy. The cause of BPPV is usually not known; however, the crystals may become loose due to trauma to the head, infection, conditions, such as Meniere’s disease, or aging. BPPV is more common among females, and it may be hereditary.

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Signs & Symptoms of Vertigo

  • Dizziness
  • A sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving (vertigo)
  • A loss of balance or unsteadiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How is Vertigo Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of BPPV is based on whether you have a particular kind of involuntary eye movement called “nystagmus”.  We perform certain tests that move your head in specific ways to see whether vertigo and nystagmus occur. These tests will help determine the cause and type of your dizziness, and whether physical therapy is appropriate.

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

We will perform a complete evaluation, including special tests, checking your posture, compensatory movements, strength and flexibility.   If appropriate, a simple and very specific head and neck maneuver is performed by a physical therapist. We will guide you through a series of 2-4 position changes to move the crystals back to their appropriate location.   

Often, this will be followed by exercises to stretch and/or strengthen certain muscles that may have been negatively affected from guarding or avoiding movements, along with working on improving your overall posture.