Vertigo (BPPV)

Vertigo

This morning I woke up early and decided to take care of a few chores before I started my day. I took out the trash, started a couple loads of laundry, and made breakfast. After that I paid some bills brushed the pool and watered some plants. I decided to get my workout out of the way, but since I just ate breakfast I figured I would lay down for a half hour to listen to a class lecture and let my food settle.

I laid down and rested. When I decided to get up, the room began to spin. I felt queasy. After the room stopped spinning, it seemed that small movements would make it begin to spin again. Since my smart-phone was nearby on the nightstand, I laid back down and looked up my symptoms. From what I could find, it appeared that I was experiencing vertigo.

I read that Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is fairly common and repeated episodes will occur with movement. Those experiencing BPPV are typically normal between episodes. The episodes usually last less than one minute. BPPV is caused by crystals that become dislodged in the vestibular labyrinth. The vestibular labyrinth is a tiny organ in your inner ear.

The vestibular labyrinth (there is one in each ear) has three loop-shaped structures that contain fluid and fine hair-like sensors. Head movement is monitored by the vestibular labyrinth. The crystals, called otoliths, are usually in another part of the vestibular labyrinth called the utricle, or otolith organ. When in utricle, as they should be, the crystals make you sensitive to gravity.

A dislodged crystal that enters the canal of one of the loop-shaped structures will move whenever your head moves into a certain position. As it moves, it provides a false signal to your brain that the room is moving (vertigo). When your head is still and the crystal settles, the room appears to stop moving. In order to treat BPPV, you need to get the crystals out of the circular canal and back into the otolith organ.

There are a few ways get the crystals back where they belong. The method I tried is called a half somersault.  The half somersault exercise was created by Dr. Carol Foster.  An illustration for the half somersault can be found at http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/bppv/images/foster.jpg. You will find a video of the half-somersault explained by Dr Foster on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VWyPgfMuvM.


Vertigo can be caused by many more serious ailments. If you do get vertigo and it turns out to be BPPV, however, you can save yourself a wasted day in the emergency room by performing the half somersault. 

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