Treatment for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
What is the vestibular system?
The vestibular system is located within the inner ear and is a complex structure that gathers information for the human body in regards to motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation. One’s balance comes from a combination of three things: proprioception (the feeling of where your body is in space), vision, and vestibular system processing.
Vestibular problems, or dysfunctions, can start spontaneously, or can be caused by a variety of factors including head injuries, aging and infections. Although there are many reasons for “dizziness”, a physical therapist can help differentiate the exact cause through testing.
The most common vestibular disorder is BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo). It is a mechanical problem of the inner ear in which calcium carbonate crystals (otoconia) become dislodged and migrate to a part of the ear where they are not supposed to be. The main symptoms you will notice are:
- Sudden onset of vertigo (dizziness) with the movement of the head
- The symptoms are not constant, they come-and-go
BPPV is fairly common. It affects 107 per 100,000 people per year and can impact adults of any age, especially seniors.
What is Vestibular Rehab?
It is a program designed by a Physical Therapist to improve and reduce vertigo-related problems. The program consists of two segments:
- Canalith repositioning (one example is the Epley maneuver) to re-locate the carbonate crystals to their proper place within the inner ear
- Addressing any residual deficits with:
- Habituation techniques: to treat symptoms caused from movement of the head
- Gaze stabilization techniques: helps improve vision during head movements
- Balance training: improves steadiness and decreases fall risk
Studies have shown resolution rates into the 90% range with 1–3 treatment sessions.
How to get started
Ask your physician for a physical therapy referral if this sounds like it would benefit you or a loved one.