You wake up one morning and go to sit up in bed, but when you shift your body into a sitting position, the room starts to spin. You could be experiencing benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). BPPV can make you feel like your head is spinning or the room is spinning around you. This sensation of spinning or dizziness is known as vertigo, and BPPV is one of the most common forms of the condition.

Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo Symptoms

One of the most common symptoms of BPPV is dizziness or a sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving. While it may seem scary, BPPV isn’t serious and the only risk that comes with the condition is the increased risk of falls. In addition to feeling dizzy or unsteady, you may vomit or feel nauseous.

What Causes BPPV?

Benign paroxysmal position vertigo is an inner ear disorder. A sensory organ in your inner ear called the utricle has tiny calcium crystals on it. This type of vertigo happens when these crystals come loose and go into the fluid-filled spaces of your inner ear. If the crystals become loose and migrate into the inner ear, you’ll get a sensation of vertigo when your head changes position. This can happen if you look up, roll over in bed, or simply sit up from a lying position.

BPPV can happen suddenly and be very frightening if you’ve never experienced it before. The hallmark feature of BPPV versus other forms of vertigo is the sensation of vertigo with changes in head position.

Am I at Risk for BPPV?

Benign paroxysmal position vertigo is most common in people over the age of 50. It’s also more common in women. You could also be at risk for the condition if you have had head trauma, participate in activities where your head is bounced around like high-intensity aerobics or bike riding on rough terrain, or have an infection or inflammation of the inner ear. You might also experience BPPV after you keep your head in the same position for a long time, like at the dentist or hair salon.

How Is BPPV Diagnosed and Treated?

If you think you have BPPV, see your doctor for a diagnosis. Your doctor will likely take a detailed health history and look for nystagmus — a jerking of the eyes that’s commonly seen with BPPV.  The doctor may attempt to induce vertigo sensations using the Dix-Hallpike maneuver, which involves turning your head 45 degrees to one side and quickly laying you down backward so that your head is off the edge of the examining table.

BPPV is treatable, and physical therapy can be an effective treatment. A physical therapist will assess you and may use the Epley maneuver to help you feel better. The Epley maneuver involves moving your head in certain ways to remove the crystals from your inner ear to relieve your dizziness. Your physical therapist may also perform other repositioning maneuvers at your appointment.

Since BPPV can recur, your physical therapist may give you home exercises to do if you experience another episode.

Your physical therapist will assess your progress using measures like the Dizziness Handicap Inventory and Dynamic Gait Index. The Dizziness Handicap Inventory assesses your progress based on your answers to a series of questions about how dizzy you feel and how that dizziness affects your functioning. The Dynamic Gait Index assesses your gait, balance, and risk of falling. These assessments not only help track the progress of your BPPV treatment but can also provide valuable information for the therapist to help reduce pain and improve your functioning.

You don’t have to suffer from dizziness caused by BPPV. Our physical therapists can help get you feeling like your old self again. Contact Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation for a consultation today at 570-208-2787.