Is there anything worse than a dizzy, spinning, nauseous feeling? The only thing worse just might be feeling it for long periods.
Many who feel this way are experiencing vertigo, which can be caused by a variety of issues that develop in the inner ear or brain. Vertigo causes you to feel as if the world is spinning around you and can literally stop you in your tracks, rendering you unable to enjoy life and even perform your daily tasks.
Noe Nava, a physical therapist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group who specializes in the treatment of vertigo, shares the top five things he’d like people to know about this often misunderstood and misdiagnosed condition.
1. Vertigo is often used as a diagnosis, but it is actually a symptom where you feel as if you are spinning. Some people may experience a spinning sensation inside their head, but this is not vertigo. True vertigo is the combination of feeling as if the room and world around you are spinning, combined with the involuntary “beating” movement of your eyes, a temporary condition called nystagmus.
2. A number of conditions can cause vertigo, such as vascular events or stroke, Meniere’s disease, migraines and vestibular tumors. However, the most common cause of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, often referred to as BPPV.
3. In order to understand what BPPV is, it is first helpful to understand the normal function of our vestibular system. We maintain an awareness of where we are in space and how we are moving through the information we gather from our eyes, bodies and our vestibular apparatus, commonly known as “the inner ear.”
The inner ear has two sections: the otolith organs and semicircular canals. The otolith organs contain concentrations of calcium carbonate commonly known as “crystals.” When someone develops BPPV, the crystals have moved from the otolith organs into at least one of the semicircular canals, stimulating the canals and sending false signals to the brain.
4. When the crystals move into the semicircular canals, a reflex of beating eye movements called nystagmus results. However, our brains continue to receive normal signals from our head, bodies and the other sections of the inner ear, resulting in “confusion” to our nervous system. This causes other symptoms such as dizziness, imbalance, nausea, vomiting and even anxiety.
5. If the cause of vertigo is only due to BPPV, you can expect a complete recovery. On occasion, our bodies can reabsorb the crystals on its own. Otherwise, a physical therapist can correct the problem, usually within one to three sessions, by providing a canalith repositioning maneuver (CRM), which is a sequence of positions to allow gravity to place the crystals back into their original location.
Nava stresses that some dizziness and loss of balance is not due to vestibular disorders and will require different forms of treatment. Talk to your doctor if you are feeling dizzy or experiencing vertigo.