Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV is one of the most common causes of vertigo, a spinning sensation inside your head or in the environment. Estimated to have a lifetime prevalence of 2.4%, it most frequently affects the elderly or those whom have suffered from a head injury or inner ear pathology in the past. In this post we will be defining BPPV, what symptoms and risk factors to watch out for, as well as what can be done to treat it.

In the inner ear sits the vestibular system with a series of fluid filled canals. The movement of the fluid within the canals tells our brains how fast, how far, and in what direction our head is moving. BPPV occurs when calcium crystals called otoconia, which are usually held in special structures in the inner ear, become loose and are dislodged.

The escaped crystals are then free to interfere with the flow of the fluid, confusing the brain with abnormal senses from the inner ear. BPPV can occur in the elderly due to ageing of the inner ear or can occur following head injuries and trauma.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of BPPV are usually episodic with short durations ranging from minutes to seconds. They are also positional, often induced by a change in position such as tilting the head to look up or rolling over in bed. Symptoms are usually intermittent, sometimes stopping for weeks or months, then coming back again. Common symptoms of BPPV include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling like you or your surroundings are spinning or moving (Vertigo)
  • Loss of balance, unsteadiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

When to seek help

BPPV is a relatively harmless condition with uncomfortable symptoms, but it can lead to serious consequences if it induces a fall. You should seek help if the problems are becoming frequent and interfering with your daily life. Your physiotherapist can help to diagnose, as well as rule out some more sinister conditions through taking a history and a physical examination. They will take into account risk factors such as:

  • Age over 50 years
  • Female gender
  • Previous head injuries
  • Previous inner ear infections

Treatment

BPPV is a benign condition, so treatment may not always be needed as occasionally it may resolve without any intervention. Fortunately, treatment for BPPV is relatively quick and has shown to be effective for relieving symptoms. Physiotherapy treatments usually involve:

  • Utilization of a combination of head and body movements to reposition the dislodged calcium crystal back to it’s original position.
  • Helpful techniques to minimize the effects of vertigo and provide strategies to avoid the dizziness

If you or someone you know may be suffering from dizziness or vertigo, give us a call at Generation Physio. We have a friendly team of professionals who are here to make a positive change in the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and will come out to your home to provide a consultation. Reach us at 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.


Article written by Tony Wu

Physiotherapist – Brisbane

Tony graduated from The University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Hons). He has gained practical clinical experience in a wide range of areas including musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, neuro-rehabilitation, aged care, and community.

Tony has a passion for working with the geriatric population, providing client-centred, friendly care and rehabilitation to allow clients to continue living life the way they want to. He has an interest in musculoskeletal rehabilitation and aims to expand his expand his knowledge base in this area.

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