Vertigo, or the sensation of dizziness, is one of the more common symptoms I see in the Chiropractic office. The cause can be a number of different things ranging from life threatening, to completely benign (thankfully the majority are the latter). Some causes include cardio-vascular problems, Pathologies in the brain and nervous system, allergies, sinus issues, pinched nerves in the neck, or even “rocks in your ears”.
Yes, I said ROCKS IN THE EARS. AKA BPPV (Benign Proxysmal Positional Vertigo)
Basically what happens is; little stones (otoliths) form in the inner ear (no one REALLY knows why) and just cause all sorts of trouble. Sometimes after a trauma these little stones become dislodged and float around until they land on a sensitive part of the inner ear that sends input to your brain about your position is space (balance/equilibrium).
Have no fear, treatment of BPPV is painless, effective and FREE!
Simply perform this maneuver. It is designed to move the little stones off the sensitive part of the inner ear, to a less sensitive area to that your equilibrium is no longer being messed with.
Of course this is just a website and blog, so before you go off doing something that can hurt yourself, be sure to be checked out by a physician blah blah blah.
Below is an excellent resource to treating BPPV. Please head on over to; http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/bppv/bppv.html for more information.
BENIGN PAROXYSMAL POSITIONAL VERTIGO
In Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) dizziness is generally thought to be due to debris which has collected within a part of the inner ear. This debris can be thought of as “ear rocks”, although the formal name is “otoconia”. Ear rocks are small crystals of calcium carbonate derived from a structure in the ear called the “utricle” (figure1 ). While the saccule also contains otoconia, they are not able to migrate into the canal system. The utricle may have been damaged by head injury, infection, or other disorder of the inner ear, or may have degenerated because of advanced age. Normally otoconia appear to have a slow turnover. They are probably dissolved naturally as well as actively reabsorbed by the “dark cells” of the labyrinth (Lim, 1973, 1984), which are found adjacent to the utricle and the crista, although this idea is not accepted by all (see Zucca, 1998, and Buckingham, 1999).
BPPV is a common cause of dizziness. About 20% of all dizziness is due to BPPV. While BPPV can occur in children (Uneri and Turkdogan, 2003), the older you are, the more likely it is that your dizziness is due to BPPV. About 50% of all dizziness in older people is due to BPPV. In one study, 9% of a group of urban dwelling elders were found to have undiagnosed BPPV (Oghalai et al., 2000).
BPPV is much more common in older persons, and the prevalence in the population increases linearly with age (Froehling et al, 1991). If one looks instead at the # of patients that are seen in dizzy clinics, The peak age for BPPV is roughly 60 (see below). This is due to a combination of the age-risk of BPPV combined with the larger number of persons in the population at certain ages.
The symptoms of BPPV include dizziness or vertigo, lightheadedness, imbalance, and nausea. Activities which bring on symptoms will vary among persons, but symptoms are almost always precipitated by a change of position of the head with respect to gravity. Getting out of bed or rolling over in bed are common “problem” motions . Because people with BPPV often feel dizzy and unsteady when they tip their heads back to look up, sometimes BPPV is called “top shelf vertigo.” Women with BPPV may find that the use of shampoo bowls in beauty parlors brings on symptoms. A Yoga posture called the “down dog”, or Pilates are sometimes the trigger. An intermittent pattern is common. BPPV may be present for a few weeks, then stop, then come back again.
The most common cause of BPPV in people under age 50 is head injury . The head injury need not be that direct – -even whiplash injuries have a substantial incidence of BPPV (Dispenza et al, 2011). There is also a strong association with migraine (Ishiyama et al, 2000). BPPV becomes much more common with advancing age (Froeling et al, 1991) and in older people, the most common cause is degeneration of the vestibular system of the inner ear. Viruses affecting the ear such as those causing vestibular neuritis and Meniere’s disease are significant causes(Batatsouras et al, 2012).
Occasionally BPPV follows surgery, including dental work, where the cause is felt to be a combination of a prolonged period of supine positioning, or ear trauma when the surgery is to the inner ear (Atacan et al 2001). While gentamicin toxicity is rarely encountered, BPPV is common in persons who have been treated with ototoxic medications such as gentamicin (Black et al, 2004). In half of all cases, BPPV is called “idiopathic,” which means it occurs for no known reason. Other causes of positional symptoms are discussed here.
A physician can make the diagnosis based on history, findings on physical examination, and the results of vestibular and auditory tests. Often, the diagnosis can be made with history and physical examination alone. The figure to the right illustrates the Dix-Hallpike test. In this test, a person is brought from sitting to a supine position, with the head turned 45 degrees to one side and extended about 20 degrees backward. A positive Dix-Hallpike tests consists of a burst of nystagmus (jumping of the eyes). The eyes jump upward as well as twist so that the top part of the eye jumps toward the down side. Click here to see a movie of BPPV nystagmus. (13 meg download). The test can be made more sensitive by having the patient wear Frenzel goggles or a video goggle. Most doctors that specialize in seeing dizzy patients have these in their office.
With respect to history, the key observation is that dizziness is triggered by lying down, or on rolling over in bed. Most other conditions that have positional dizziness get worse on standing rather than lying down (e.g. orthostatic hypotension). There are some rare conditions that have symptoms that resemble BPPV. Patients with certain types of central vertigo such as the spinocerebellar ataxias may have “bed spins” and prefer to sleep propped up in bed (Jen et al, 1998). These conditions can generally be detected on a careful neurological examination and also are generally accompanied by a family history of other persons with similar symptoms.
Electronystagmography (ENG) testing may be needed to look for the characteristic nystagmus (jumping of the eyes) induced by the Dix-Hallpike test (also see here PC BPPV). It has been claimed that BPPV accompanied by unilateral lateral canal paralysis is suggestive of a vascular etiology (Kim et al, 1999). For diagnosis of BPPV with laboratory tests, it is important to have the ENG test done by a laboratory that can measure vertical eye movements. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan will be performed if a stroke or brain tumor is suspected. A rotatory chair test may be used for difficult diagnostic problems. It is possible but uncommon (5%) to have BPPV in both ears (bilateral BPPV).
BPPV has often been described as “self-limiting” because symptoms often subside or disappear within 2 months of onset (Imai et al, 2005). BPPV is not life-threatening. One can certainly opt to just wait it out.
If you decide to wait it out, certain modifications in your daily activities may be necessary to cope with your dizziness. Use two or more pillows at night. Avoid sleeping on the “bad” side. In the morning, get up slowly and sit on the edge of the bed for a minute. Avoid bending down to pick up things, and extending the head, such as to get something out of a cabinet. Be careful when at the dentist’s office, the beauty parlor when lying back having ones hair washed, when participating in sports activities and when you are lying flat on your back.
Symptoms tend to wax and wane. Motion sickness medications are sometimes helpful in controlling the nausea associated with BPPV but are otherwise rarely beneficial.
As BPPV can last for much longer than 2 months, in our opinion, it is better to treat it actively and be done with it rather than taking the wait/see approach.
There are two treatments of BPPV that are usually performed in the doctor’s office. Both treatments are very effective, with roughly an 80% cure rate, ( Herdman et al, 1993; Helminski et al, 2010). If your doctor is unfamiliar with these treatments, you can find a list of clinicians who have indicated that they are familiar with the maneuver from the Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) .
The maneuvers, named after their inventors, are both intended to move debris or “ear rocks” out of the sensitive part of the ear (posterior canal) to a less sensitive location. Each maneuver takes about 15 minutes to complete. The Semont maneuver (also called the “liberatory” maneuver) involves a procedure whereby the patient is rapidly moved from lying on one side to lying on the other (Levrat et al, 2003). It is a brisk maneuver that is not currently favored in the United States, but it is 90% effective after 4 treatment sessions. In our opinion, it is equivalent to the Epley maneuver as the head orientation with respect to gravity is very similar, omitting only ‘C’ from the figure to the right.
The Epley maneuver is also called the particle repositioning or canalith repositioning procedure. It was invented by Dr. John Epley, and is illustrated in figure 2. Click here for a low bandwidth animation. It involves sequential movement of the head into four positions, staying in each position for roughly 30 seconds. The recurrence rate for BPPV after these maneuvers is about 30 percent at one year, and in some instances a second treatment may be necessary.
When performing the Epley maneuver, caution is advised should neurological symptoms (for example, weakness, numbness, visual changes other than vertigo) occur. Occasionally such symptoms are caused by compression of the vertebral arteries (Sakaguchi et al, 2003), and if one persists for a long time, a stroke could occur. If the exercises are being performed without medical supervision, we advise stopping the exercises and consulting a physician. If the exercises are being supervised, given that the diagnosis of BPPV is well established, in most cases we modify the maneuver so that the positions are attained with body movements rather than head movements.
After either of these maneuvers, you should be prepared to follow the instructions below, which are aimed at reducing the chance that debris might fall back into the sensitive back part of the ear.
Note that this maneuver is done faster in the animation than in the clinic. Usually one allows 30 seconds between positions.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PATIENTS AFTER OFFICE TREATMENTS (Epley or Semont maneuvers)
1. Wait for 10 minutes after the maneuver is performed before going home. This is to avoid “quick spins,” or brief bursts of vertigo as debris repositions itself immediately after the maneuver. Don’t drive yourself home.
2. Sleep semi-recumbent for the next night. This means sleep with your head halfway between being flat and upright (a 45 degree angle). This is most easily done by using a recliner chair or by using pillows arranged on a couch (see figure 3). During the day, try to keep your head vertical. You must not go to the hairdresser or dentist. No exercise which requires head movement. When men shave under their chins, they should bend their bodies forward in order to keep their head vertical. If eye drops are required, try to put them in without tilting the head back. Shampoo only under the shower. Some authors suggest that no special sleeping positions are necessary (Cohen, 2004; Massoud and Ireland, 1996). We, as do others, think that there is some value (Cakir et al, 2006)
3. For at least one week, avoid provoking head positions that might bring BPPV on again.
- Use two pillows when you sleep.
- Avoid sleeping on the “bad” side.
- Don’t turn your head far up or far down.
Be careful to avoid head-extended position, in which you are lying on your back, especially with your head turned towards the affected side. This means be cautious at the beauty parlor, dentist’s office, and while undergoing minor surgery. Try to stay as upright as possible. Exercises for low-back pain should be stopped for a week. No “sit-ups” should be done for at least one week and no “crawl” swimming. (Breast stroke is OK.) Also avoid far head-forward positions such as might occur in certain exercises (i.e. touching the toes). Do not start doing the Brandt-Daroff exercises immediately or 2 days after the Epley or Semont maneuver, unless specifically instructed otherwise by your health care provider.
4. At one week after treatment, put yourself in the position that usually makes you dizzy. Position yourself cautiously and under conditions in which you can’t fall or hurt yourself. Let your doctor know how you did.
Comment: Massoud and Ireland (1996) stated that post-treatment instructions were not necessary. While we respect these authors, at this writing (2002), we still feel it best to follow the procedure recommended by Epley.
While some authors advocate use of vibration in the Epley maneuver, we have not found this useful in a study of our patients (Hain et al, 2000). Use of an antiemetic prior to the maneuver may be helpful if nausea is anticipated.
Some authors suggest that position ‘D’ in the figure is not necessary (e.g. (Cohen et al. 1999; Cohen et al. 2004 ). In our opinion, this is a mistake as mathematical modeling of BPPV suggests that position ‘D’ is the most important position (Squires et al, 2004). Mathematical modeling also suggests that position ‘C’ is probably not needed. In our opinion, position ‘C’ has utility as it gives patients a chance to regroup between position ‘B’ and ‘D’.
The “Gans” maneuver. This is a little used treatment maneuver, called the “Gans maneuver by it’s inventor (R. Gans, Ph.D.), that is a hybrid between the Epley and Semont maneuvers. It incorporates the head orientations to gravity of “B” and “D” in the Epley figure above, using the body positions of the Semont maneuver. It leaves out position ‘C’ in the figure above. There is too little published experience with this maneuver to say whether it is as effective as the Epley/Semont but we suspect that it has the same efficacy, as it uses the same head orientations with respect to gravity.
WHAT IS THE PROOF THAT THE EPLEY/SEMONT MANEUVERS WORK ?
Many patients have been reported in controlled studies. The median response in treated patients was 81%, compared to 37.% in placebo or untreated subjects. A metanalysis published in 2010 indicated that there is very good evidence that the Epley maneuver (CRP) is effective (Helminski et al, 2010). See here for the details.
WHAT IF THE MANEUVERS FOR BPPV DON’T WORK?
While the Epley maneuver works roughly 75% of the time on the first occasion they are used, this means the other 25% are either not “fixed”, or just partially better, or perhaps even worse (about 5%). For this reason, in persons who have continued dizziness, a follow-up visit is scheduled and another nystagmus test with video-Frenzel goggles is done. It is common to have a follow-up visit once/week for roughly a month.
There are several possible reasons for continued dizziness after a physical treatment for BPPV:
- Maneuver didn’t work (should keep treating for a reasonable number — about 4 is usually reasonable– attempts)
- Canal conversion (should change treatment to the new canal)
- Another problem in addition to BPPV (e.g. Migraine — should change treatment)
- Canal Jam
- Other complications
Bizarrely, some insurance companies, in what we consider a misguided attempt to save money, suggest that positional nystagmus tests for dizziness that guide treatment once/week are “too frequent”.
This insurance company logic is seriously flawed. Just imagine — what if insurance companies tried to save money by limiting the number of EKG’s that can be done in a person with a heart attack ? Insurance would pay less but more people would die. With BPPV, one needs to see the results of the last treatment, and be sure that things haven’t changed. Similarly, it would be ridiculous to prevent a cardiologist from checking an EKG on a patient who had sustained a heart attack, but was not in chest pain. You cans see how logic applies to follow-up testing for BPPV.
The office maneuvers for BPPV, perhaps provided on 2 or 3 occasions, are effective in about 95% of patients with BPPV. If you are among the other remainder, or your symptoms are mild enough that the trouble of travelling is more than it is worth, or you live far away, your doctor may wish you to proceed with the home Epley exercises, as described below. If a maneuver works but symptoms recur or the response is only partial (about 40% of the time according to Smouha, 1997), another trial of the maneuver might be advised. When all maneuvers have been tried, the diagnosis is clear, and symptoms are still intolerable, surgical management (posterior canal plugging) may be offered. This is exceedingly rare.
Occasional patients travel to a facility where a device is available to position the head and body to make the maneuvers more effective. See this page for more information about this option.
BPPV often recurs. About 1/3 of patients have a recurrence in the first year after treatment, and by five years, about half of all patients have a recurrence (Hain et al, 2000; Nunez et al; 2000; Sakaida et al, 2003). If BPPV recurs, in our practice we usually retreat with one of the maneuvers above. While daily use of exercises would seem sensible, we did not find it to prevent recurrence (Helminski et al, 2005; Helminski and Hain, 2008).
In some persons, the positional vertigo can be eliminated but imbalance persists. This may be related to utricular damage (Hong et al, 2008). See this page for some other ideas. In these persons it may be reasonable to undertake a course of generic vestibular rehabilitation, as they may still need to compensate for a changed utricular mass or a component of persistent vertigo caused by cupulolithiasis. Conventional vestibular rehabilitation has some efficacy, even without specific maneuvers. (Angeli, Hawley et al. 2003; Fujino et al ,1994) )
The Brandt-Daroff Exercises are a home method of treating BPPV, usually used when the side of BPPV is unclear. Their use has been declining in recent years, as the home Epley maneuver (see below) is considerably more effective. They succeed in 95% of cases but are more arduous than the office treatments. These exercises also may take longer than the other maneuvers — the response rate at one week is only about 25% (Radke et al, 1999). These exercises are performed in three sets per day for two weeks. In each set, one performs the maneuver as shown five times.
1 repetition = maneuver done to each side in turn (takes 2 minutes)
|Suggested Schedule for Brandt-Daroff exercises|
|Morning||5 repetitions||10 minutes|
|Noon||5 repetitions||10 minutes|
|Evening||5 repetitions||10 minutes|
Start sitting upright (position 1). Then move into the side-lying position (position 2), with the head angled upward about halfway. An easy way to remember this is to imagine someone standing about 6 feet in front of you, and just keep looking at their head at all times. Stay in the side-lying position for 30 seconds, or until the dizziness subsides if this is longer, then go back to the sitting position (position 3). Stay there for 30 seconds, and then go to the opposite side (position 4) and follow the same routine.
These exercises should be performed for two weeks, three times per day, or for three weeks, twice per day. This adds up to 42 sets in total. In most persons, complete relief from symptoms is obtained after 30 sets, or about 10 days. In approximately 30 percent of patients, BPPV will recur within one year. Unfortunately, daily exercises are not effective in preventing recurrence (Helminski and Hain, 2008). The Brandt-Daroff exercises as well as the Semont and Epley maneuvers are compared in an article by Brandt (1994), listed in the reference section.
When performing the Brandt-Daroff maneuver, caution is advised should neurological symptoms (i.e. weakness, numbness, visual changes other than vertigo) occur. Occasionally such symptoms are caused by compression of the vertebral arteries (Sakaguchi et al, 2003). In this situation we advise not proceeding with the exercises and consulting ones physician.
Multicanal BPPV (usually mild) often is a consequence of using the Brandt-Daroff exercises.
HOME EPLEY MANEUVER
The Epley and/or Semont maneuvers as described above can be done at home (Radke et al, 1999; Furman and Hain, 2004). We often recommend the home-Epley to our patients who have a clear diagnosis. This procedure seems to be even more effective than the in-office procedure, perhaps because it is repeated every night for a week.
The method (for the left side) is performed as shown on the figure to the right. One stays in each of the supine (lying down) positions for 30 seconds, and in the sitting upright position (top) for 1 minute. Thus, once cycle takes 2 1/2 minutes. Typically 3 cycles are performed just prior to going to sleep. It is best to do them at night rather than in the morning or midday, as if one becomes dizzy following the exercises, then it can resolve while one is sleeping. The mirror image of this procedure is used for the right ear.
There are several problems with the “do it yourself” method. If the diagnosis of BPPV has not been confirmed, one may be attempting to treat another condition (such as a brain tumor or stroke) with positional exercises — this is unlikely to be successful and may delay proper treatment. A second problem is that the home-Epley requires knowledge of the “bad” side. Sometimes this can be tricky to establish. Complications such as conversion to another canal (see below) can occur during the Epley maneuver, which are better handled in a doctor’s office than at home. Finally, occasionally during the Epley maneuver neurological symptoms are provoked due to compression of the vertebral arteries. In our opinion, it is safer to have the first Epley performed in a doctors office where appropriate action can be taken in this eventuality.
-Britton A. Taylor, DC
“To keep you at your best, for the rest of your life.”
Taylor Chiropractic Center