Camille Lambert, Physical Therapist, Banner Baywood Medical Center
Question: I have a spinning sensation when I roll over or sit up in bed. It lasts a few seconds and then goes away. What is going on?
Answer: You may have an inner ear, or vestibular problem known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV. A condition that frequently goes undiagnosed, BPPV is a disorder involving the vestibular system, which helps regulate balance and the head’s orientation in space.
There are two vestibular organs, one inside each ear. They are about the size of a dice. They are primarily composed of three semicircular canals, each oriented in a different plane. BPPV occurs when small calcium crystals in the inner ear break loose and float around in one of these canals. This causes false signals to transmit to the brain. This is what causes the “spinning” sensation.
The primary symptom of BPPV is transient “vertigo” which is a sensation of spinning as opposed to dizziness or disequilibrium. Symptoms are provoked primarily by changes in head position. The vertigo spells last from a few seconds to one minute.
The causes of BPPV vary. It occurs more frequently as people age, with incidences peaking around age 70. It can be caused by trauma, viral infections or prolonged unusual positioning of the head. In approximately 60 percent of cases, the cause is unknown.
A trained practitioner, such as an audiologist or physical therapist, usually can treat BPPV in just one to two sessions. During treatment, a practitioner will take you through a series of positions. These positions are designed to gradually move the loose particles out of the canal and back to their normal anatomical position so they no longer cause spinning sensations.