Vertigo: Is it really the crystals?
When we are young we played. We flipped our bodies over, did somersaults, went on roller coasters, and got our heads in every imaginable position. As we get older, those activities usually cease to exist. We are caught sitting at our computers with our heads in a stationary position for most of the day. Either our heads are upright working and interacting with our environment, or horizontal while sleeping. We don’t do as many cartwheels in our 50’s, or getting into pretzel-like positions as we used to. This, my friends, is the problem. The body is meant to move. It’s meant to be flexible and stretched.
How many of us cannot go on roller coasters anymore, or even swing on a swing because we get dizzy? It’s because we’ve allowed our bodies to become rigid. Our brain cannot decipher those movements anymore because it’s been so long since we’ve done them. This is where benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) comes into play. The brain may need re-calibration. It may not be “crystals” that somehow move around your ear like we’ve been told. If that were the case gymnasts, children, and those that frequent roller coasters at any age would be acquiring this “dizzying” illness on a regular basis. No?
Dr. Matthew Evenhouse has helped thousands of patients looking for relief from vertigo symptoms while working in the ER. His experience is telling him there is more to the story. Why is it that many patients find full recovery or at least partial relief from simple maneuvers that put the head in awkward positions? Is it because the canaliths magically moved back to where they should be, or maybe only a few made it? It’s not plausible to say this can be the only cause, especially when some people get better on their own without any treatment. It’s been said that 50 to 70 percent of BPPV cases are idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. Could re-calibration of the brain be the missing piece?
Empirical evidence is showing we need to get our magnetic brains into all positions more. It may need re-calibration and re-familiarize itself to where the limits are. That’s why the Epley and Semont maneuvers may work. They put the head in tilted positions and roll to every extreme. The “barrel roll” technique has been said to work on 90 percent of patients. Why is it then that patients may need to do the exercises more than once? Well, it may take repetitions for the brain to figure out where the body is “in space”.
How to prevent this form of vertigo? Easy. Play. A word of caution, however. Start small. Maybe start by stretching your head and neck into slow, circles; chin to chest then work your way over to the side, then back, then to other side, and back to chin to chest. Or, start swinging on a swing. You don’t have to go very high, just a little bit at first. Work your way up.
If we start allowing our bodies to move the way they were meant to, the chances of acquiring BPPV can dramatically decrease. Other causes of vertigo are: viruses and bacteria, medications, Meniere’s disease, muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders, or migraines. See my blog post HERE for more information and treatments for vertigo.
If you are over the age of 65 and the BPPV maneuvers do not help, it’s best to check with your doctor. Vertigo in older adults can be a sign of other health issues.
Elaine Evenhouse is a licensed and certified occupational therapy assistant.