Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

Have you ever been dizzy after getting into or out of bed, or even just turning your head? If so, you may have experienced vertigo to some degree. Vertigo is usually caused by an inner ear problem, which is also the main cause of BPPV.

BPPV means Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. If that still doesn’t mean anything to you, hopefully breaking down the words into their meanings will help with understanding what is happening with this condition. Benign means that it is not serious or dangerous. Paroxysmal means a sudden increase of symptoms, or a sudden reoccurrence of symptoms. Positional means based on position. Lastly, vertigo is a state in which the person’s surroundings seem dizzy. So, BPPV is a non-dangerous condition in which the person can experience sudden dizziness based on the position of their head.

The inner ear is the area of concern that causes the symptoms associated with BPPV. Let’s look at how this happens in the ear. Within the inner ear there are some calcium carbonate crystals called otoconia. These crystals are meant to be in you ear, but sometimes they can get moved or bumped into other parts of the ear that they aren’t supposed to be in. This happens with BPPV. These crystals, or otoconia, get bumped and move into the semicircular canals in the ear. The semicircular canals have a liquid in them that help with balance and telling your brain what to do to restore balance. This is done by little cilia, or hair, that sense the fluid that is pushing on them. So, when the otoconia, or the calcium carbonate crystals, move into the semicircular canals and push on the cilia it throws off this balance mechanism. An added problem is that fluid in the semicircular canals is somewhat thick, causing the otoconia to get stuck in the semicircular canals.

Now that we understand how BPPV is caused, let’s talk about how BPPV can be resolved. Like was mentioned earlier, the position that you have your head in is what causes the otoconia to move in the ear. Just as this causes the crystals to go into the semicircular canals, there are certain positions or maneuvers that can be done to move the crystals back out of the semicircular canals. There are exercises that are also beneficial for decreasing symptoms of BPPV.

Once a diagnosis of BPPV is reached, specific exercises and physical therapy techniques, available through Pick PT Physical Therapy, can help alleviate dizziness, vertigo and other symptoms that can lead to falls.

Treatment may include balance training, visual exercises to help stabilize balance and, in cases of BPPV, a specialized equilibrium realignment techniques known to return the inner ear crystals to their normal positions. If find your self waking up in the morning with the room spinning, you likely have BPPV. Make sure you come into see us at Pick PT, and we'll get you fixed quick and keep you living a life moving.