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Denver Specialized Physical Therapy for Dizziness and Vertigo

July 27, 2016

Studies have shown that 2.4% of individuals will experience benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) at least once in their lifetime. It is the most common cause of vertigo. The episodes of vertigo related to BPPV are usually brief (typically less than one minute) and can occur when you look up, bend over, roll over in bed, or transition from laying down to sitting up. You may also experience nausea along with the vertigo. The good news is that BPPV is easily treated in just one or two physical therapy visits. And our physical therapists specialize in vestibular rehabilitation physical therapy.

Vestibular organs housed in your inner ear detect changes in head position. These canals have connections to the muscles that move your eyes. We are able to detect the presence of BPPV by watching your eyes as you move and as your body changes position. When BPPV is present, a rapid involuntary eye movement will occur at the same time as you feel the vertigo. 

BPPV can be a very frustrating and debilitating problem. It is caused by a mass of calcium carbonate crystals or "otoconia" within the fluid of the inner ear canal. Throughout our lives, these crystals are shed by the inner ear, and they dissolve in the fluid of the inner ear.

However, when the calcium carbonate crystals are shed in large amounts, they do not dissolve and instead float loose inside the closed, fluid-filled canals of the inner ear. As there is not a lot of fluid in the small semicircular canals of the inner ear, you end up with calcium carbonate crystals that float there inside the inner ear canal and bump into the gravity and acceleration sensors that line the walls of the inner ear. Because of this, many refer to BPPV as "ear rocks" or "rocks in your ears" or "rocks in your head."

When those sensors are triggered by the impact of those crystals, a sensation of vertigo is felt. With vestibular rehabilitation, using simple maneuvers, we move the crystals through the inner ear canal and drop them into the large, fluid-filled chamber called the utricle. Once the crystals drop into the utricle, it is much like dropping sugar cubes into a barrel of coffee. They dissolve and the problem is gone. 

The reason for the mass shedding of calcium carbonate crystals is unknown, and it can happen spontaneously, but may also be the result of a head trauma. A limitation in blood flow to the net-like mesh of tissue that holds the calcium carbonate crystals to the wall of the inner ear may also contribute to BPPV.

Step one in treatment is distinguishing between dizziness and vertigo. At least 10 percent of all ER visits are related to dizziness or vertigo. And unlike dizziness, vertigo is the false sense of movement. This usually feels like either you are spinning or your environment is spinning around you. Vertigo is the result of a disruption of your vestibular system. Since your vestibular system plays an important role in your ability to balance, a disruption in the system can lead to falls and consequent injuries.

Vestibular rehabilitation is one of Cherry Creek Wellness' specialties. You will be evaluated by a physical therapist who will observe and measure posture, balance and gait, and compensatory strategies. Once the evaluation is done, your therapist will develop a complete treatment program and prescribe an individual program of exercises and activities to help manage symptoms of dizziness and improve balance and stability. If you are having vertigo and dizziness, you don't have to suffer. Call us and let us get you on the way to your recovery: 303-333-3493.