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What Causes Vertigo? All About BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo)
July 01, 2016 – Updated May 31, 2019
Is this room actually spinning?

If you have positional vertigo, you might just think so!

By definition, vertigo is the sensation of spinning. More accurately, it’s the sensation that the room/environment is spinning.

This differs from other balance issues like dizziness and feeling unsteady or light-headed.

The cause of positional vertigo is related to the inner ear, often referred to as the vestibular system.

The structures involved are called “semi-circular canals”. You have 3 of these canals in each inner ear, and each is filled with fluid.

As long as the fluid is moving smoothly and symmetrically on each side, there shouldn’t be any vertigo.

But when the fluid is disrupted…watch out!

In the video below, I’ll explain how little “crystals” or “ear rocks” can float into the canal and cause vertigo.

I’ll also discuss how we treat it successfully in the clinic, often very quickly.

Check it out! (And if you want more written info about vertigo, scroll down below the video)

Also, I have a second blog/video in this series that focuses on how to eliminate vertigo using our 3-step approach.

Click this link if you’d like to check it out:

Here’s some more written information about vertigo, just in case you prefer reading vs. watching the video:

True vertigo is the sensation of spinning or movement (such as the sensation of swaying). If you’ve ever been sea sick, this is a bit like the swaying sensation, and if you ever got “the spins” in your younger years after having too much fun with alcohol, this is similar to the sensation of spinning that some people experience. Another common report from our clients with vertigo is that it feels like the room is moving or that it’s “swimming” across there field of vision.

There are 2 general types of vertigo: “Inner ear vertigo” and “central vertigo”. Inner ear vertigo is the most common type that we help people deal with in the clinic. I’ll discuss it more below. Central vertigo is related to damage to the balance centers of the brain. This includes things like strokes, MS and Parkinson’s. People with central vertigo tend to feel more unbalanced or unsteady in general, while people with inner ear vertigo will typically experience sudden attacks of spinning or the sensation of movement, especially after changing body/head positions.

For today, I’d like to focus on inner ear vertigo (it’s very fascinating, and we don’t have time to cover both right now). People with inner ear vertigo have very specific symptoms. Typically, they have a hard time turning their heads rapidly and walking in busy environments (like the mall). Certain positions can cause a sudden sensation of spinning, which can be pretty scary at times. These positions include tipping the head back, bending forward, getting up and down from bed, or rolling over in bed.

So what’s going on with these people? Do you remember when you were a kid and you would spin around in the grass until you got really dizzy and fell over? The reason you felt dizzy after spinning is that you were moving the fluid around in your inner ear canals (you have a set of 3 canals on each side). Normally, when your head moves, the fluid in the canals also moves. And when you stop moving your head, the fluid stops. This gives your brain information about the position of your head, particularly when your head is moving. But when you spun around quickly, the fluid kept moving even after you stopped. This inaccurate information is confusing for your brain and results in the spinning sensation and the general sensation of feeling off-balanced.

The most common type of inner ear dysfunction that will cause this spinning sensation is called “BPPV”. This stands for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. Focus on those last 2 words: positional vertigo. As I mentioned, certain position changes or head movements will result in vertigo. When the fluid moving through your inner ear canals is altered on one side, the information to your brain gets mixed up, and your brain gets confused. Have you ever had a friend tell you they had “rocks loose in their ears”? This is the simple way to look at BPPV. Basically, small rocks or crystals from adjacent inner ear organs get dislodged. When they float over into the canals on one side, they can affect the fluid movement on that side. And when the 2 sides start sending conflicting information to your brain, this results in confusion and the sensation of spinning. While the spinning sensation is usually short in duration (lasting around 20-45 seconds), it can be very intense and is quite unpleasant…

Luckily, inner ear vertigo (BPPV) is typically very treatable in the clinic with some specific “repositioning” maneuvers. In my next blog/video, I’ll give you specific details on our 3-step approach for helping our clients eliminate their inner ear vertigo.

Click this link to check it out:

If you have any specific questions about vertigo in the meantime, please let me know!

– Luke Gordon

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