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  • Julia Young, DPT

What is BBPV and Why Am I Going to Physical Therapy?


What does it stand for? BPPV stands for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.

What is BPPV? Now this is usually the part that makes peoples head spin (ha, pun intended). Anyways, our ears have organs or structures called otolith organs that monitor the movements of your head relative to gravity. For a variety of reasons these crystals can become dislodged and move into another part of your inner ear called the semicircular canals. This causes the semicircular canal to become sensitive to head position changes it would normally not respond to- causing the spinning or dizziness feeling.

What are other symptoms of BPPV? Symptoms can include vertigo, dizziness, loss of balance, falls, and nausea. The feeling of vertigo can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Usually, a nystagmus is present during these bouts of vertigo. A nystagmus is a rapid and involuntary eye movement.

What is vertigo? It is the sudden sensation that you’re spinning or that the inside of your head is spinning. Vertigo that is caused by BPPV is usually triggered by specific head movements and can be mild to severe. Head movements that prompt symptoms are usually looking up and tilting head backwards, leaning all the way to bend over, rolling in bed, or when going from laying down to sitting up. These do vary from person to person, but symptoms are almost always brought on my changes in head positions.

Why Physical Therapy? There are specific maneuvers that make use of gravity and head position to guide the crystals back into the correct chambers. Your physical therapist is trained to diagnose which maneuvers are needed through a variety of tests. In a clear majority of cases it can be correct in as little as 1-3 visits! Maintenance exercises will also be provided to complete at home for lasting effects.

It is important to note that prior to beginning treatment for BPPV your physical therapist will complete a neurological exam to rule out red flags and insure the patient is appropriate and safe for treatment. It is significant to be aware that BPPV should not cause constant dizziness, numbness or pins and needles, trouble speaking or trouble coordinating movements. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms alerting your health care provider immediately is recommended.


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