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Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV)

What does benign positional paroxysmal vertigo, commonly known as BPPV, mean?

As its name suggests, BPPV is a:

Benign: Although the episodes are very unpleasant and disabling for the person suffering, it is not an infectious, progressive or worrying disease

Positional: associated with position or position change (getting up, bending over, turning in bed or looking up)

Paroxysmal: Intense, violent, but short episode (usually less than 1 minute per episode)

Vertigo: a type of dizziness characterized by a spinning feeling, the room spins around the person

Thus, BPPV is an intense, but short spinning sensation, triggered by changes in position. Do these symptoms describe what you feel??

What is the cause of BPPV?

The cause of BPPV is in the inner ear, where the vestibular system, who is responsible for balance is located. The vestibular system is composed of semicircular canals which are used to detect the movements of the head. The wall of these canals is formed of calcium carbonate crystals called otoliths. Sometimes these crystals dislodge from the wall. In this situation, when the head moves, the otoliths move in the semicircular canals and cause vertigo because they prevent the proper functioning of the vestibular system.

How can a physiotherapist help you?

The goal of a physiotherapist qualified in vestibular rehabilitation will be to reposition the crystals so that they no longer affect the vestibular system. There are several possible repositioning techniques. These techniques are up to 90% effective and in general 1 to 3 physiotherapy sessions are enough to solve the problem1.

So BPPV is a very disabling problem, but a relatively simple solution exists! Do not hesitate to consult a health professional if you think you are experiencing this problem.

1) M. Khatri, R. M. Raizada, and M. P. Puttewar, “Epley's canalith-repositioning manoeuvre for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo,” Indian Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 315–319, 2005.

Author - Karine has been a physiotherapist at Physio Max since 2017. She completed her bachelor's and master's degree in physiotherapy at Université Laval (Québec) in 2016. Her main clinical interest is the treatment of concussions and vestibular disorders. In addition, she enjoys the sports side of the profession, including being the local Midget AAA hockey team's physiotherapist.