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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

Vertigo: Why does it feel like the room is spinning?

Updated: May 9, 2023

winding staircase

Vertigo is a general term to describe feelings of dizziness. It is when someone has the sensation of the room spinning or that they are spinning. The most common cause of dizziness is called BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). Inside our ears, there are small structures that make up our vestibular (balance) system, called semicircular canals, that detect when our body is moving.

There are also structures called otoliths that contain calcium carbonate crystals, which help our body sense linear movements such as up, down, left, and right. BPPV occurs when these crystals in our inner ear become dislodged into the semicircular canals. The movement of the crystals in the canals causes a feeling of spinning or motion when you move your head into a certain position. The cause of BPPV is often unknown. There are some activities that may bring on an episode

- Keeping the head in the same position for a long time, such as in the dentist chair, at the beauty salon or during strict bed rest

- Head trauma (hitting your head)

- Higher impact movements such as high intensity aerobics, bike riding on uneven terrain

- Inner ear infection

It is more common in people over the age of 50, and greater in women than men. It is estimated that 50% of people will experience BPPV in their lifetime.

Determining if BPPV is the cause of dizziness involves getting a detailed history of a person's health and triggers of dizziness. There are specialized googles that are used to assess how someone's eyes are moving when placed in different positions. A PT is looking for eye movement called nystagmus when head position is changed.

There are three semicircular canals into which the crystals can get dislodged. Treatment for BPPV consists of repositioning maneuvers involving movements of your head and body in different positions to move the crystal out of the semicircular canal. A vestibular therapist has been trained to identify which canal is affected and how to identify the correct repositioning maneuvers to move the crystal out of the canal.

The physical therapists at Engage have completed vestibular training and are able to identify and treat BPPV. It is important to treat BPPV as this can lead to balance problems and an increased risk of falls. Give the office a call at 315-810-2423 to stop feeling like the room is spinning!

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