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How Physios Treat Vertigo

Have you experienced vertigo, nausea, vomiting, or balance issues during or immediately after moving your head position? You may be experiencing Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (or BPPV), which is the most common cause of vertigo symptoms.

This inner ear condition can make you feel sudden, brief and intense dizziness, and can often be successfully treated by a Physiotherapist.

What does BPPV feel like?

Vertigo can be a symptom of BPPV, as well as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Balance problems
  • Nystagmus (uncontrolled flickering of eyes)
  • Neck stiffness or pain

You might notice these symptoms after:

  • Rolling over in bed
  • Getting into or out of bed
  • Bending over
  • Looking up and down
  • Turning your head side to side

These symptoms usually only occur when you change your head position, and they usually last less than a minute. If you are perfectly still and continuing to experience symptoms, you may not have BPPV.

What is BPPV?

BPPV occurs when the microscopic fragments that float in inner ear fluid dislodge. If these fragments remain in their normal ear canal there is no problem. The problem occurs if a fragment gets into another ear canal where it doesn’t belong. This can affect your balance and spatial awareness.

There is no definitive cause for BPPV, and it is unknown why the fragments dislodge from their normal ear canal. BPPV commonly affects women more often than men, and those over 40 years old.

You can read more about what causes BPPV here.

Why see a Physio for an inner ear issue?

Most people think that due to the sudden onset and intermittent nature of the symptoms and episodes, along with how unsettling BPPV can feel, they should go straight to their GP or even present to emergency.

While this may be the case in extreme circumstances, many episodes of BPPV can be successfully treated by a Physiotherapist. Unfortunately not many people realise that Physiotherapists can treat much more than muscle injuries or sore body parts, and often rely purely on medication to treat the symptoms of BPPV.

A Physiotherapist with additional training and expertise in this area can treat BPPV because they are trained in teaching a series of movements which will drain the microscopic fragments back into the correct place. Physios who are trained in BPPV can tell which canal the fragments are in, and can therefor prescribe the correct series of movements to assist with the drainage.

What does treatment involve?

A Physiotherapist with additional training in treating BPPV looks at your neck and head movements, eye movements and balance to determine an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment for BPPV may include guided movements to change the position of the dislodged fragments from the ear canals, as well as balance exercises, eye or head movement exercises, and short-term lifestyle changes.

If you require treatment for BPPV, you will first need an assessment consultation with a Physiotherapist. BPPV can often be successfully treated within 2 – 4 visits, but can vary in each case.

If you would like to arrange an assessment consultation with a Physiotherapist for BPPV, you can book in with Jacqui Haskett, who has undertaken further professional development for this condition.

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