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Vertigo: Can you treat it Yourself?

Every person will experience dizziness at some time in their life. There are many different causes of dizziness, as well as many different ways it can be experienced. This includes feeling lightheaded, off-balance, or room spinning. Room spinning dizziness is called Vertigo. It is most often caused by the disorder Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Vertigo from BPPV lasts for only a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes. It occurs most frequently while getting up from bed, rolling over, or bending over. Loose “crystals” getting caught in the inner ear cause BPPV. You may experience Vertigo at home but can you treat it yourself?

Can I treat BPPV?

Anyone who has experienced vertigo from BPPV is familiar with its symptoms. In addition to Vertigo, BPPV can cause nausea, vomiting,  or loss of balance. However, there is good news! There is a quick and relatively easy way to treat BPPV. It’s not a magic pill (if only) instead, a maneuver, called the Epley.

The Epley maneuver is pretty easy to perform and very effective. It has a >90% success rate when performed in a clinical setting with a trained physician, ENT, or vestibular therapist. However, as a physical therapist that treats this disorder, I see more and more patients try it on their own. They may learn about it from their doctor or from the internet. This blog is a word of caution to those who try it themselves. 

Can I do the Epley Myself?

The Epley maneuver is a set of very specific movements. First, it recreates the symptoms (intense vertigo, frequently with nausea, and sometimes vomiting) to diagnose where the crystals are. Followed by specific movements to clear them out. When performed in a clinical setting, 10% of the time the crystals can get loosed in another part of the inner ear that makes it more complicated to get out. Performed by patients on their own at home, this number jumps up significantly. Some patients have performed it independently and resolved their symptoms. However, they run the risk of worsening the situation, this may prolong vertigo, imbalance, and nausea.

Another word of caution. There are tons of information sources and different maneuvers on the internet to get rid of BPPV. Not all are correct sources are correct. It could become harder to get rid of symptoms if the maneuver is performed incorrectly. Studies show that out of 3,000 Youtube videos on the Epley, neurologists found that only 21 were accurate.

How to Treat Vertigo

If you do get vertigo symptoms that seem like BPPV, your best bet is to see an ENT or vestibular physical therapist. If addressed quickly it can take as little as 1 visit to get rid of the symptoms. The physical therapist will guide you through treatment, what symptoms to expect during the maneuver, and afterward.