Vertigo describes a false sensation of movement or spinning. It is often referred to as ‘dizziness’, which is a less specific term that can refer to anything from feeling light-headed or unsteady to a spinning sensation.
Common symptoms of vertigo include:
- a sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving.
- a loss of balance or unsteadiness
- hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing), nausea, vomiting or a feeling of fullness in the ear
A feature of vertigo can be the sudden onset of symptoms.
Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo has one of two causes – either a disturbance in the balance organs of the inner ear, or a disturbance in part of the brain or sensory nerve pathways.
Peripheral vertigo collectively refers to vertigo caused by inner ear problems.
Central vertigo collectively refers to vertigo caused by dysfunction in the central nervous system.
Physiotherapy and vertigo
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common type of vertigo. Studies have shown that up to 42% of vertigo cases are caused by BPPV. It is believed that BPPV is due to the displacement of small crystals of calcium carbonate (otoconia) from the inner ear into the fluid-filled semicircular canals. The displacement of these crystals can cause vertigo and the associated symptoms.
A diagnosis of vertigo made based on the history of the symptoms. Symptoms are usually more on one side and occur suddenly with the sensation lasting for less than 1 minute. Diagnosis is further confirmed with the Dix-Hallpike manoeuvre.
The symptoms of BBPV will generally resolve in 6 months. Given the disruption to day to day life, this can feel like a long time. The first line of treatment by physiotherapists are canalith repositioning manoeuvres. These manoeuvres attempt to reposition the free-floating crystals of calcium carbonate. These manoeuvres are reported to be 80% effective first time. Some people may need a further one or two sessions. For best results it is recommended to avoid head movements (as much as possible) and sleep in a semi-reclined position for 48 hours post physiotherapy.
If you require any further information, please get in touch!
Tom Hamilton is a physiotherapist at our Penrith practice.