Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

Authored by Caitlin McDonald - Physiotherapist.

As we age there are changes in all of our systems including our inner ear which affects our balance. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or more commonly referred to as BPPV, is the most common cause of vertigo. This type of vertigo is more common in women and the elderly population. BPPV is characterised by the following;

  • The sensation that either yourself or the room around you is spinning
  • These episodes of vertigo occur when the head is changing position, for example when you turn over in bed
  • These episodes are short in duration and normally less than 60 seconds however, depending on the type can be persistant if the head is kept in the same position
  • You may also feel unsteady, nauseous and sweaty

This is a mechanical disorder that occurs because small crystals (otoconia) become free flowing in the canals in your inner ear, causing your brain to give you the false sense that you are moving!

How can physiotherapy help me?

If your physiotherapist thinks that you have BPPV they will ask you a range of questions including;

  • What does your dizziness feel like to you?
  • How long does it last for?
  • What are you doing when it comes on?
  • Do you feel unsteady on your feet or have you had any falls?
  • Have you had any other symptoms- neck pain/stiffness, nausea, vomiting?

Your physiotherapist will do a range of tests to check your eye movements and neck movements including a Dix-Hallpike test to determine if you have a nystagmus and what canal in your inner ear has the otoconia in them. From there they will be able to complete a manouvre called the Epley’s/Canalith repositioning manoeuvre. This manouvre will help to move the crystals out of the canal and stop you from feeling like you are spinning every time you move your head.

Your physiotherapist will also discuss and assess your falls risk to see if you would benefit from a falls prevention management plan as well.

So what can you do if you are dizzy?

See your physiotherapist for a thorough assessment and treatment of your condition. Here at the Mandurah Medical Centre, our Senior Physiotherapist, Caitlin has a special interest in treating dizzy patients and has completed extra training in this area. She also holds a workshop on the assessment and treatment of dizziness regularly for her colleagues. If you are dizzy and would like to have an assessment please contact LifeCare Mandurah on (08) 9535 4644 or visit our website to make a booking

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