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Do I Have Positional Vertigo?

Updated: May 10, 2022

Vertigo is a very common problem for older adults, but can also occur in younger adults as well. Although there are many causes, one of the most common causes of dizziness is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is a type of vertigo resulting in a spinning sensation or dizziness sometimes resulting in nausea and vomiting typically brought on by changes in position. According to The American Institute of Balance 50% of individuals over the age of 70 will experience BPPV.

What is going on? There are small crystals in the inner ear that can be dislodged. The official name, otoconia, are small crystals of calcium carbonate. If the crystals are floating around, in the inner ear they can set off a dizziness sensation. The size and shape of the crystals effect the intensity of the dizziness sensation. Luckily, we can perform maneuvers in clinic to help clear the crystals out.

One of the most common ways to diagnose BPPV is to take a good history. People with BPPV typically have symptoms with laying down or rolling over in bed. Sometimes looking up can provoke dizziness. The latency (how long the dizziness lasts) is important in diagnosis. Symptoms of BPPV typically last less than a minute. How long the symptoms last can help determine where the problem is and what treatment should be used. BPPV symptoms are typically very predictable and may only occur rolling to one side. Knowing what provokes your symptoms and how long they last can help the therapist provide the correct treatment.

Some studies show a 98% first time cure rate of BPPV. That means if you have BPPV and the correct treatment is done there is a good chance your symptoms will resolve in one visit. However, sometimes it takes more than one session.

If you are experiencing dizziness with changes in position lasting less than a minute you are likely a good candidate for the repositioning maneuvers. If you are having other types of vertigo and dizziness physical therapy may be helpful or you may need additional medical workups from your physician.

If you need help with vertigo reach out to our Physical Therapists here at The Green Room! You may request a free phone or in-person consultation here

In good health,

By: Elizabeth Braley, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, ACSM-EP at The Green Room PT

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