What are the Symptoms of BPPV?

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

What are the Symptoms of BPPV?

The symptoms of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) can include the following:

  • Sudden episodes of violent vertigo.
  • Dizziness and nausea.
  • Movements of your head trigger vertigo.
  • Your eyes may drift and flick uncontrollably (nystagmus).
  • Your vertigo may last half a minute or more.

What Causes BPPV?

Inside your inner ear, there is a series of canals filled with fluid. These vestibular canals are at different angles. When your head is moved, the liquid rolling inside these vestibular canals tells the brain exactly how far, how fast and in what direction your head is moving.

BPPV is caused by little ‘ear rocks‘ or otoconia (calcium carbonate crystals) within the vestibular canals.

Usually, these crystals are held in unique reservoirs within other inner ear structures (saccule and utricle). It is thought that injury or degeneration of the utricle may allow the ‘ear rocks’ to dislodge and escape into the balance organ and interfere with your vestibular system.

What Causes Your ‘Ear Rocks’ to Dislodge?

Factors that may cause or allow ‘ear rocks’ to migrate into your vestibular canals include:

  • Head or ear injury.
  • Ear surgery or ear infection, such as otitis media.
  • Degeneration of the inner ear structures.
  • Vestibular neuritis (viral infection of the inner ear).
  • Meniere’s disease (a disorder of the inner ear).
  • Some types of minor strokes.

In around half of BPPV cases, you can’t find the cause of your BPPV, known as idiopathic BPPV.

How is BPPV Diagnosed?

Dizziness and vertigo are common to many medical conditions, so careful differential diagnoses are essential. Your physiotherapist or doctor may use several tests to diagnose BPPV.

What is the Treatment for BPPV?

‘Ear Rock’ Relocation Techniques

After assessing you and confirming BPPV, your BPPV-trained physiotherapist will apply specific techniques to relocate the “ear rocks” to an area in the inner ear that doesn’t stimulate your feelings of dizziness or vertigo.

How Successful is BPPV Treatment?

When performed correctly, BPPV techniques immediately reduce your vertigo, dizziness, and other symptoms of BPPV is immediate in 80% or more cases. Quality BPPV practitioners have a 90%+ success rate within three applications of the techniques.

Other BPPV Treatment Options?

Due to the physical presence of ear rocks within your vestibular canal, only the relocation of these ear rocks will clear your BPPV symptoms. You may find some drugs that can help you mask your BPPV symptoms by diminishing your sensitivity to your vestibular symptoms, and they work similarly to seasickness medications. Would you please discuss this medicated option with your doctor?

Who Performs BPPV Treatment?

Some vestibular physiotherapists and doctors are trained in assessing and treating BPPV. BPPV-trained physiotherapists undertake specific training to diagnose and successfully treat BPPV.

PhysioWorks has several BPPV-trained physiotherapists. Please call them to book your appointment with a BPPV physiotherapist.

More Info

More information: Balance, Dizziness & Vertigo FAQs and Health Products