BPPV is one of the most common causes of vertigo.  Vertigo, which can be a scary and intense experience, is described as the false sensation that you yourself are spinning or that your surroundings are spinning around you.  Because BPPV is so prevalent, answering some of the most frequently asked questions about the condition can help you gain a better understanding of your options for finding some relief.

Question #1: What does BPPV stand for?

BPPV is an abbreviation for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.  While this might seem like a mouthful, it’s actually quite easy to understand once you know what each word is describing:

  • Benign – While the symptoms of BPPV can be quite severe, benign indicates that it is not life-threatening.
  • Paroxysmal – This word refers to the cyclical nature of this condition.  Episodes of BPPV tend to occur in short, sudden waves.
  • Positional – For BPPV sufferers, certain head positions or movements are what trigger an episode.
  • Vertigo – The hallmark symptom of BPPV is vertigo, which is defined as the false sensation of spinning.

Question #2: What causes BPPV?

As part of the normal makeup of the inner ear, crystals of calcium carbonate called otoconia play a role in helping your body sense motion and balance.  Otoconia normally remain embedded in a part of the inner ear called the utricle. However, in BPPV, these crystals become dislodged and then migrate into one of the fluid-filled canals where they don’t belong.  The normal movement of this fluid, called endolymph, is what gives the brain information about how your body is positioned in space. When crystals interrupt the normal movement of endolymph it can send false signals to the brain, which can cause vertigo.  In BPPV, this can happen doing something as common as rolling over in bed.

Question #3: How common is BPPV?

It is estimated that about 2.4 percent of people will experience BPPV at some point in their life.  It most commonly occurs in adults, particularly in seniors. Children very rarely experience BPPV. Most cases of BPPV have no apparent cause, however, some connections have been made with migraines, trauma, and inner ear infections.

Question #4: What are the most common symptoms of BPPV

By far, the most common and severe symptom of BPPV is spells of vertigo that can be very severe.  Vertigo episodes can come on so suddenly that they are sometimes referred to as “drop attacks”. Because of the whirling or spinning sensation, many BPPV sufferers will experience nausea or vomiting as well.  You might also lose your balance or feel unsteady on your feet. The symptoms of BPPV can be very intense and can last from just a few seconds to several minutes or more. Once the worst of the episode has passed, residual dizziness and instability may persist.  Oftentimes, the first vertigo attack of BPPV is the worst and subsequent ones are milder.

Question #5: What is the Epley maneuver?

The Epley maneuver is one of several treatments that take the head through specific ranges of motion in an attempt to guide the loose calcium crystals back to where they should be.  Depending on where the calcium crystals are located, these maneuvers can be effective in relieving BPPV symptoms. It is important to seek out healthcare providers that are well trained in helping people with this condition to ensure that there aren’t other underlying health factors and to be sure that the treatment is properly rendered.

Question #6: What is Upper Cervical Chiropractic care and how can it help me?

Many people suffering from vertigo are finding relief with a special niche within the chiropractic profession.  Upper cervical care focuses exclusively on the uppermost vertebrae in the spine to ensure their proper positioning.  An upper cervical misalignment can have far-reaching implications when it comes to your body’s ability to function normally.  In the case of vertigo, this area of the spine plays an important role for two reasons:

  1. The upper cervical spine lies in very close proximity to the inner ear.  A misalignment of the atlas can affect how the inner ear functions and communicates with the brain about how your body is positioned in space.
  2. The atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae that make up the upper cervical spine protect the brainstem.  The brainstem is responsible for sorting and integrating the information received regarding how your body is positioned and must send the appropriate signals in response so your body can maintain its sense of balance.

When the atlas misaligns, it can change the way the inner ear functions and it can also irritate the brainstem, causing abnormalities in the way signals are interpreted and sent.  The focus in our practice is identifying whether or not the atlas is misaligned, and if it is, gently adjusting it back to its normal position.

Just as it might seem, once the atlas is aligned, your body’s normal functions are allowed to return naturally over time.  The longer you are able to hold your alignment, the more optimally your body can function. With upper cervical care, adjustments are given only when needed, making it a natural, non-invasive, non-painful way to achieve lasting relief from vertigo and its associated symptoms.





Schedule a consultation with Novato chiropractor Dr. Monica Egan at Monarch Chiropractic