Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV, is the most common vestibular disorder and it is by far the most common cause of vertigo, a false sensation of rotational movement or spinning. BPPV isn’t life-threatening, it can come in unexpectedly in brief spells and it can trigger with certain head positions or motions. This might frequently occur when you tip your head down or up, when you lie down, or when you flip over or sit up in bed.
BPPV is a mechanical problem in the inner ear. It occurs when some of the calcium carbonate crystals, known as otoconia, that are typically embedded in gel at the utricle, become dislodged and migrate into at least one of the 3 fluid-filled semicircular canals, in which they are not supposed to be. When enough of these particles collect among the canals, they interfere with the fluid movement that these canals use to sense head motion, causing the internal ear to send false signals to the brain.
Fluid from the canals does not normally respond to gravity. On the other hand, the crystals do interact with gravity, thereby shifting the fluid when it normally would remain still. After the fluid moves, nerve endings in the canal are triggered and send a message to the brain that the head is moving, even though it is not. This false information does not match what the other ear may be sensing, together with what the eyes are seeing, or using what the muscles and joints do, and this mismatched information is sensed by the brain as a spinning sensation, or vertigo, which normally lasts less than one minute. Between vertigo spells some people may feel symptom-free, while others feel a mild sense of imbalance or disequilibrium.
Symptoms of BPPV
The signs and symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, may include:
- A feeling that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving (vertigo)
- A loss of equilibrium or balance
The signs and symptoms of BPPV can come and go, with these generally lasting less than one minute. Episodes of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo can disappear for a while and then return. Activities that cause the signs and symptoms of BPPV may vary from person to person, but are nearly always brought on by a change in the placement of the head. Some people also feel out of balance when standing or walking. Abnormal rhythmic eye movements, known as nystagmus, usually follow the outward signs of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV.
It’s essential, however, to understand that BPPV will not give you continuous dizziness that is unaffected by motion or even a change in position. Also, it will not affect your hearing or produce fainting, headache or neurological signs, such as numbness, a sensation of “pins and needles,” difficulty speaking or difficulty coordinating your movements. If you have one or more of these additional symptoms, tell a healthcare professional immediately. Other disorders could be originally misdiagnosed as BPPV. By alerting a healthcare professional about any signs and symptoms you may be experiencing along with vertigo, they could reevaluate your illness and think about whether you might have another kind of disorder, instead of or in addition to BPPV.
BPPV is rather common, with an estimated prevalence of 107 per 100,000 annually plus a lifetime prevalence of 2.4 percent. It is thought to be quite rare in children but can affect adults of any age, particularly seniors. The wide majority of cases happen for no apparent reason, with many individuals describing how they simply went to get out of bed and the room began to spin. Nevertheless, associations have been made with injury, migraine headaches, inner ear infection or disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, intubation, presumably due to protracted time lying in bed, and reduced blood flow. There might also be a correlation with a person’s favorite sleeping side.
Diagnosis for BPPV
General practitioners normally refer patients to a healthcare professional specifically trained to take care of vestibular disorders, most commonly a vestibular rehabilitation therapist, such as a chiropractor, a specially trained physical therapist, or sometimes an occupational therapist or audiologist. An ENT (ear, nose & throat specialist) who specializes on vestibular disorders can also diagnose BPPV.
Normal medical imaging (e.g. an MRI) isn’t effective in diagnosing BPPV, because it doesn’t show the crystals that have moved to the semi-circular canals. However, when someone with BPPV has their own head moved into a position that makes the dislodged crystals go within a canal, the error signals have been known to cause the eyes to move in a very specific pattern, known as “nystagmus”.
The association between the internal ears and the eye muscles are what generally permit us to remain focused on our environment while the head is moving. Since the dislodged crystals make the brain think a person is moving when they are not, it causes the eyes to move, making it seem like the room is spinning. The eye movement is the indication that something is happening automatically in order to move the fluid in the inner ear canals when it shouldn’t be.
The nystagmus will have different characteristics that allow a healthcare professional to recognize which ear the displaced crystals are inside, as well as which canal(s) they have moved into. Evaluations like the Dix-Hallpike test involves moving the head into specific orientations, allowing gravity to move the dislodged crystals and activate the vertigo while the healthcare professional watches for the recognizable eye movements, or nystagmus.
Dix-Hallpike Test for BPPV
Healthcare professionals, such as chiropractors specializing in vestibular diseases, typically utilize the Dix-Hallpike test, sometimes called the Dix-Hallpike maneuver, to test for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. To execute the Dix-Hallpike test, your doctor will ask you to sit on the test table with your legs stretched out. He’ll turn your head 45 degrees to one side, which contrasts the right posterior semicircular canal with the sagittal plane of the body, then they are going to allow you to lie back quickly, while the eyes are open, so that your head hangs slightly over the edge of the desk.
This motion may cause the loose crystals to move inside your semicircular canals. The healthcare professional will ask if you are feeling symptoms of vertigo and observe your eyes to find out how they move. As soon as you’ve got a few minutes to recover, your doctor may do the test on the opposite side of your head.
The latency, length and direction of nystagmus, if present, along with the latency and duration of vertigo, if present, should be noted. If the test is negative, it will demonstrate that benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is a less probable diagnosis and central nervous system involvement ought to be considered. There are two sorts of BPPV: One at which loose crystals can move freely in the fluid of the canal (canalithiasis), and, more infrequently, one where the crystals are believed to be ‘wrapped up’ on the bundle of nerves that feel the fluid motion, or cupulolithiasis.
With canalithiasis, it requires less than a moment for those crystals to stop moving after a particular change in head position has triggered a twist. Once the crystals quit shifting, the fluid motion settles and the nystagmus and vertigo cease. With cupulolithiasis, the crystals trapped on the package of sensory nerves will make the nystagmus and vertigo last longer, until the head is moved out of the offending position. It is necessary to make the proper diagnosis, since the treatment is different for every variant. BPPV can be treated using various treatment methods, one of the most common being the Epley Maneuver.
Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Insight
Chiropractic care is an alternative treatment option commonly utilized to help treat a variety of injuries and conditions associated with the proper alignment of the spine. Occasionally, a spinal misalignment, or subluxation, can develop into numerous health issues, causing a wide array of symptoms if left untreated for an extended period of time. However, many chiropractors can treat many other ailments not closely associated with the spine. In a clinical setting, chiropractic care has been used for the management of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. Chiropractors will utilize the Dix-Hallpike test to diagnose a patient followed by the Epley maneuver to help treat patients with BPPV. Many patients have reported a reduction in symptoms.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
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