What Is Vertigo?

What Is Vertigo?

By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson

Feeling dizzy? Especially when moving your head in certain positions? You may be suffering from vertigo. What is vertigo? What causes this issue? What are the common symptoms? What can you do right now to help alleviate vertigo symptoms? What can a physio/osteo do to help? How long until vertigo gets better? All your vertigo related questions answered below!

Not in the mood for reading? Check out this short video with Dr. Abbey Davidson (Osteopath) that explains vertigo and how to treat it!

What is Vertigo?

vertigo is caused by pathology of the inner ear or brain
Blausen.com staff (2014)

Vertigo is a condition where a person experiences false sensations of spinning or swaying. Sufferers will commonly complain of ‘dizziness’ and can it can be debilitating in severe cases.

Vertigo is most commonly an inner ear problem. The inner ear contains the cochlear (hearing) and the semi-circular canals (balance). Vertigo impacts fluid inside the semicircular canals which play a huge role in balance. This fluid movement is what makes you feel like you are still spinning after getting off a ‘spinning ride’. With vertigo calcium crystals form within the fluid and dislodge causing the unpleasant symptoms.

Causes of Vertigo:

Vertigo is caused by issues within the inner ear or the brain. The most common cause of vertigo is Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) with symptoms occurring in episodes of 1-2 minutes in duration. The dizzy sensation you get when standing at major height is often referred to as vertigo. The true name for this extreme fear of heights with accompanying dizziness is called acrophobia.

Other causes of vertigo symptoms include:

  • Vestibular Neuritis (nerve inflammation)
  • Labyrinithisis (inner ear inflammation from infection)
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Migraine
  • Stroke
  • Acoustic Neuroma (benign tumor inner ear)
  • Cerebellar Tumor
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

If this is your first ever time experiencing vertigo we suggest being assessed by a health professional as soon as possible. This can rule out the more sinister causes of your symptoms.

What is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV is also known as true vertigo. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo symptoms. BPPV is where benign calcium crystals form in the fluid in the semicircular canals of the inner ear. Certain motions can move these crystals providing a stimulus to the brain that the body is moving when it is not. This is why vertigo caused by BPPV can be aggravated by certain head positions.Bouts of vertigo with BPPV generally only last 1-2 minutes. This is most common with those over 50 years of age.

Symptoms of Vertigo:

People experiencing vertigo may have some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Sensation of spinning, rocking, swaying, moving (lasting minutes to hours)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Nystagmus (involuntary eye movements)
  • Symptoms aggravated by certain head positions
  • Lack of balance
  • Ringing in the ears/hearing loss
  • Sweating

If you are concerned you are suffering from vertigo it is best to get assessed by a health professional (medical doctor, osteopath or physiotherapist).

What you can do right now for Vertigo?

Vertigo can cause huge disruption to daily activities. When suffering from an episode of vertigo is important to sit down, avoid aggravating head motions, avoid driving and perform the Epley Manouver.

It is important to sit down when experiencing period of dizziness. This will reduce your chances of falling and possible injury that comes with losing balance. This can also give opportunity to dislodged crystals to settle.

Avoid factors that aggravate your vertigo symptoms. This may be the way you roll over in bed, moving your head into certain positions or . Identify these factors and avoid them where possible. It is also important to avoid driving when suffering a vertigo attack. Head checks can aggravate symptoms and make the road unsafe for you and other road users.

Epley Maneuver aims to reposition dislodged troublesome calcium crystals within the inner ear. Proper performance of this maneuver can provide great relief for vertigo sufferers. For a demonstration on how to perform this technique on yourself or with the assistance of another person check out the video at the top of page.

Physio and Osteo treatment for Vertigo:

True Vertigo is called BPPV

Your physiotherapist or osteopath will spend time taking a medical history. This will try and determine the cause of your symptoms and whether you are truly suffering from vertigo. If necessary, your physiotherapist or osteopath may refer you to an appropriate medical practitioner for further testing. Further testing can include formal hearing and balance tests and brain MRI.

If you are suffering from the most common form of vertigo (caused by BPPV) your physiotherapist or osteopath can assist in your recovery. They will use hands of techniques to maneuver the troublesome crystals in your inner ear. They will also treat the head, neck and surrounding regions to ensure there is no restrictions which hinder recovery or place extra pressure around your ear.

Your physiotherapist or Osteopath can be helpful in situations of recurrent vertigo caused by migraines. Your therapist can help you with hands on techniques, lifestyle advice and prescription of appropriate exercises/stretches.

How long until Vertigo gets better?

Most cases of vertigo will get better with time. However, this is heavily dependent on the specific cause. The more serious causes of vertigo will require medical intervention

Vertigo from BPPV is very treatable and responds well to manual therapy. Sufferers can expect to see resolution within 3 weeks to 6 months. However, with BPPV reoccurrence is common and treatment for future episodes may be required. In rare cases of unrelenting BPPV that does not response repositioning maneuvers, surgery may be required.

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