What Is Vertigo? Symptoms & Treatment | Back In Motion

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What is Vertigo? Symptoms & Treatment

Published: 27 August 2015 - Clinical Conditions

Vertigo & The Vestibular System

The Vestibular System is responsible for integrating sensory stimuli and movement of the body. Located in the inner ear, it allows your body to keep objects in visual focus when the body moves.

Vertigo is a condition which creates a false sensation of movement resulting in feelings of spinning, tilting, rocking, swaying, dizziness or falling.

Causes of Vertigo

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (known as BPPV). This accounts for 25% of all cases of vertigo.
  • Vestibular neuronitis
  • Stroke
  • Migraine
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Cervical dizziness and vertigo
  • Ear infection
  • Whiplash
  • Certain medication

What do the ears have to do with balance?

The inner ear is comprised of structures that feed the brain information regarding head velocity, movement, acceleration and how the head is moving with respect to gravity.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV is accountable for approximately 25% cases of vertigo. It is a condition characterised by episodes of sudden and severe vertigo. It can come about as a result of changing positions suddenly –for example moving from lying to sitting–where the head moves abruptly.

Causes of BPPV

Debris called otoconia (which can be thought of as ‘ear rocks’) can collect in the ear canals. 

Sudden, severe movements can cause the otoconia in those who suffer BPPV to become dislodged. When this happens, the otoconia can move into areas of the inner ear which control balance. 

Sudden movements that aggravate BPPV include: 

  • Lie to sit, or sit to lie
  • Looking up, down or turning head to the side
  • Rolling in bed
  • Walking 
  • Standing on escalators and in elevators 
  • Travelling in trains and trams
  • Bending over to tie your shoe laces 

The exact cause of BPPV is unknown. However it is known that certain factors cause ‘ear rocks’ to migrate into the balance organs for various reasons. These factors include:

  • Head or ear injury
  • Ear surgery or infection
  • Degeneration of inner ear structures
  • Minor strokes
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Meniere’s disease

How Physiotherapy helps with vertigo treatment?

Your physiotherapist will work with you to find out the frequency, duration and intensity of your dizziness and provoking positions to determine the area of your ear responsible. Tests such as visual, positional, balance and walking will be carried out to confirm the problem area. Clients are given a specific individualised home exercise program based upon their assessment findings.

With BPPV, a specialised technique known as the ‘Epley’s manoeuvre’ will be performed to move the ‘ear rocks’.

‘Epley’s manoeuvre’ treatment includes balance and exercises for vision, neck and torso. This technique can provide up to 90% symptom relief within 4-10 treatment sessions depending on the severity of the client’s symptoms. 

After treatment remember to:

  • Wait 10 minutes before going home
  • Sleep in a semi-inclined position for 1 week (use 2+ pillows)
  • Avoid sleeping on your aggravated side
  • Get out of bed slowly
  • Avoid positions that provoke your symptoms
  • Avoid sudden head movements
  • Don’t turn your head too far up or down


If you are having dizziness, spinning sensations or nausea when performing rotating movements, you may be suffering from Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo or BPPV please book yourself in for a Free Initial Assessment at your nearest Back In Motion practice and we can help you.