Physical Therapy: Inner ear condition can lead to vertigo

It is estimated that one in every five people will develop vertigo in their lifetime.

Are you unable to lie flat in bed? What about rolling from side to side in bed? What happens when you bend forward or look up to the ceiling? Do these movements make you dizzy?

If you responded yes to any of these questions, you may have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

It is estimated that one in every five people will develop vertigo in their lifetime. The most common cause of vertigo is a condition in the inner ear known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.

BPPV occurs when there is debris—  more specifically, a calcium carbonate crystal—which has been displaced within the inner ear.

The presence of this displaced crystal within the inner ear can disturb one’s balance and equilibrium, and sense of motion. This disturbance is created when the crystal over-stimulates or influences hair cells that are responsible for relaying head movement to the brain, thus resulting in vertigo.

These crystals are naturally occurring in the inner ear, but are attached to a specific structure and not ‘free floating.’

There are multiple causes for the crystals to be displaced, but more often than not, it tends to be spontaneous.

Other causes can include trauma (fall, hit to the head, whiplash), age and extreme changes in barometric pressure.

Most of my patients with BPPV report having episodes of dizziness with certain positions. Most commonly, it is lying flat in bed, rolling over in bed, getting up in the morning, looking up to the ceiling and bending forward.

They also report that avoiding these positions allows them to function pretty well during the day.  Some say they have experienced previous attacks, either months or years prior.

Treatment for this condition is very effective. Treatment for BPPV consists of repositioning the crystal in the inner ear.

This is done through a series of head and body positions, guided by the physiotherapist, which will move the crystals away from the sensitive hair cells within the inner ear.

Improvement is almost immediate following the repositioning treatment.

Although BPPV accounts for a large percentage of vertigo, it is not the only cause. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist if you think you may have BPPV.

For more information about vertigo and dizziness related disorders, attend a free lecture at Sun City Physiotherapy’s downtown clinic on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 6:30 p.m. Call 250-861-8056 to reserve your seat.

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