Simple procedure helps those living with vertigo

Over two million Americans live with vertigo, but there is a simple way to relieve the dizziness.

For Shelby Bearden, an avid gardener, her vertigo came from out of the blue.

“I woke up one morning, and I rose up, and I was spinning uncontrollably,” she said.

It is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, and it can be triggered just by moving your head.

It all starts in your ears: normally, crystals called otoliths move around in the semicircular canals in your inner ear, touching tiny hair cells which send information about your head's position to your brain. But when one of those crystals becomes stuck in a canal, it makes the hair cells respond to changes in position that are not really happening. That leads to the dizziness and nausea.

Kristy Olthoff is a physical therapist certified in vestibular rehab. Kristy uses a special set of maneuvers, called a canalith repositioning procedure, to get people with BPPV back on their feet.

"I turn her head to the right, lay back with her head extended and that caused the crystal in the right posterior canal to move into this position down here, then the next position moved in here, until finally it ducked into that central part. Typically, with one session, with one treatment people have no symptoms,” Olthoff said.

It may look simple, but people should not try this at home.

“It can be very dangerous. You don't know which ear is involved and there are three canals in both ears,” Olthoff said.

Thanks to Kristy, Shelby is no longer feeling dizzy.

"She cured me in one session. One session after six months of my life being on hold,” Bearden said.

About 20 percent of people with vertigo actually have BPPV. In about half of all cases there is no clear cause.

But when one can be pinpointed, it is usually due to a blow to the head.


BACKGROUND: Vertigo is a type of dizziness, where there is a feeling of motion when one is stationary. The symptoms are due to a dysfunction of the vestibular system in the inner ear. It is often associated with nausea and vomiting as well as difficulties standing or walking. About 20% of all dizziness is due to BPPV. The most common cause of BPPV in people under age 50 is head injury. In half of all cases, BPPV is idiopathic, which means that it occurs for no known reason. (Source:
TYPES: Vertigo is classified into either peripheral or central depending on the location of the dysfunction of the vestibular pathway. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common causes of vertigo - the sudden sensation that you're spinning or that your head is spinning inside. Symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo are triggered by specific changes in the position of your head, such as tipping your head up or down, and by lying down, turning over or sitting up in bed.
DIAGNOSES: During a exam, your doctor will likely look for: ( Source: Mayo Clinic)
* Signs and symptoms of dizziness that are prompted by eye or head movements and then decrease in less than one minute
* Dizziness with specific eye movements that occur when you lie on your back with your head turned to one side and tipped slightly over the edge of the examination bed
* Involuntary movements of your eyes from side to side (nystagmus)
* Inability to control your eye movements

TREATMENT: A physical therapist may treat you with a series of movements known as the canalith repositioning procedure. It's performed in your doctor's office. The canalith repositioning procedure consists of several simple and slow maneuvers for positioning your head. The goal is to move particles from the fluid-filled semicircular canals of your inner ear into a tiny bag-like open area (vestibule) that houses one of the otolith organs (utricle) in your ear where these particles don't cause trouble and are more easily reabsorbed. Each position is held for about 30 seconds after any symptoms or abnormal eye movements stop. This procedure is usually effective after one or two treatments. ( Source: Mayo Clinic)
? For More Information, Contact:

Kristi Olthoff, PT
Certified in Vestibular Rehab
(623) 876- 5349

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