As a vertigo chiropractor based in Ames, Iowa, I make it my duty to help my patients better understand their health conditions. The term benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) can sound intimidating, as it sounds like a severe condition. The truth is BPPV is generally not life-threatening and is the most common cause of vertigo, affecting 107 out of 100,000 people.
Although it is rare for children to have BPPV, it is a common occurrence for adults of any age, and especially seniors. There is no one definite reason as to why BPPV occurs, so it may be confusing to some. In this article, I will discuss the true meaning of the name BPPV, how it develops, and how to find relief.
Dissecting the Term “BPPV”
It is daunting for most people to hear professional medical terms as it always seems like a serious condition when you hear words you don’t quite know. By knowing the meaning of the term, you will have better insight into the full nature of the ailment. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is composed of four words, let’s break it down:
- The term benign means the condition is not life-threatening.
- The term paroxysmal means that the condition happens in sudden and brief episodes.
- The term positional means that the trigger of the episodes are specific movements of the head or changes in the head position.
- The term vertigo refers to the feeling or sensation of false movement or rotation.
By knowing the meaning of these terms, you can now better understand the true nature of BPPV. Despite the debilitating vertigo episodes, BPPV is not at all life-threatening, and its origin can be explained by the processes happening in the inner ear.
How BPPV Occurs
Different sensory organs coordinate to regulate your balance, including your vision, your proprioceptors (the sensors in the arm or leg muscles and joints), and your inner ear (vestibular system). These parts receive sensory input and send the information over to the central nervous system where the brainstem processes it. In normal conditions wherein all the sensors are working correctly, your body will be able to adjust your posture so that you maintain your balance.
Your inner ear has what you call otoconia, which are calcium carbonate crystals staying in one specific place. When you have BPPV, these crystals are dislodged and move into the three fluid-filled semicircular canals. This disrupts the normal fluid movement in the inner ear, causing the sending of incorrect signals to the brain regarding the movement of the body. The brain may detect motion even when there is none, which leads to vertigo.
People with BPPV can experience varying symptoms, frequency, and severity, but the shared experience of the condition includes the following:
- Short, intense episodes of vertigo
- Syncope or feeling faint
- Nystagmus or the abnormal movements of the eyes during a BPPV attack
- Nausea and vomiting for those with severe bouts of vertigo
Since BPPV occurs in short but intense episodes, there are times when a person will not feel any symptoms between attacks. During this period, a person may feel completely fine, or they might continuously feel a mild off-balanced sensation. A normal BPPV attack should not affect your hearing, give you constant vertigo, or cause neurological symptoms such as numbness or tingling.
Relief Options for BPPV
There are several relief options you can choose from to get rid of the symptoms of BPPV, such as the following:
The Epley maneuver is the most well-known maneuver used to treat BPPV. A professional will give you instructions so that you can perform this at home. It aims to reposition the crystals in your inner ear through a series of head movements. However, it is important to note that this method does not work for all cases of BPPV, and you should be cautious in attempting this by yourself as it can disturb your balance signals even further.
In vestibular rehabilitation, a trained professional will assist you in specific exercises that aim to reduce the sensation of vertigo and dizziness, as well as to retrain your eyes, and protect against the risk of falling from a loss of balance.
Doctors often prescribe vertigo and nausea medications to patients who suffer from BPPV.
This rarely happens, but severe cases of BPPV may require surgical intervention.
A Natural and Effective Way to Reverse BPPV
Several studies have shown a correlation between BPPV and head or neck trauma. BPPV following a history of head or neck trauma is more likely to come back, with a long-term recurrence rate of 50%. Upper cervical chiropractic care can effectively address this condition.
For your brainstem to properly process balance signals, it has to be working at its optimal condition, free from irritation or pressure. The vertebra responsible for protecting the brainstem is the C1, or atlas, and it is also the most movable bone in the spinal column. Because of this, the atlas is prone to misalignment even with the mildest head or neck injury. When this happens, rather than protecting the brainstem like it’s supposed to do, it puts pressure on the brainstem and irritates it instead. This causes the brainstem to relay faulty signals regarding the body’s balance and movement.
Upper cervical chiropractic care resolves this issue using a natural, safe, and effective solution. Upper cervical chiropractors use precise measurements to find the exact angle of misalignment for each patient, and that’s what enables them to use a gentle method of adjustment. It aims to restore the alignment of the atlas naturally and to return the optimal function of the central nervous system. When the misalignment is corrected, the body will heal on its own, and your vertigo can resolve naturally. To start your journey of healing through upper cervical chiropractic, make an appointment at Read Health Center in Ames, Iowa.