If you feel like your head is spinning, it might not just be the arrival of your Christmas shopping credit card bill.
Do you feel dizzy when you lie flat in bed? Does your head spin when you roll from side to side in bed? What happens when you bend forward or look up to the ceiling? Do any of these movements make you dizzy? If you say 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 is a condition in the inner ear which occurs when there is ‘debris’—a calcium carbonate crystal—which has been displaced within the inner ear. The presence of this displaced crystal can disturb one’s balance and equilibrium, and sense of motion. This disturbance is created when the crystal overstimulates 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 they are attached to a specific structure and not free floating. There are multiple causes for the crystals to be displaced but, more often, it tends to be spontaneous. Other causes can include trauma (fall, hit to the head, whiplash), high dose antibiotics, age and extreme changes in barometric pressure.
Most of my patients with BPPV report 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. It 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.
Although BPPV accounts for a large percentage of vertigo, it is not the only cause. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist certified in vestibular rehabilitation if you have similar symptoms, or think you may have BPPV.
For more information about vertigo and dizziness related disorders, attend a free lecture at Sun City Physiotherapy on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 6:30pm. Call 250-861-8056 to reserve your seat.
Robina Palmer is a physiotherapist certified in vestibular therapy.