Vertigo: Causes, Symptoms & Exercises To Heal

Lifestyle, Healthy Living

By: // March 21, 2019

Almost everyone gets dizzy at some point in his or her life. Maybe a crazy 3D movie sets you off balance, or one too many times on the carousel leaves you walking circles.

Sometimes dehydration or hunger can make one dizzy or even the simple act of standing up too quickly.

These are all fairly common episodes, but when that dizzy feeling doesn’t go away quickly, or repeats itself frequently, you might be dealing with something known as Vertigo.

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What is Vertigo?

Young woman dealing with dizziness upon standing due to vertigo

Vertigo is the feeling of being off balance which can include the sensation of spinning, falling, tumbling and turning.

Victims can experience any number of other symptoms as well including:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Motion sickness
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Clogged ear
  • Headache

The common dizzy feelings referred to above are mainly caused by spatial disorientation.

Vertigo, on the other hand, is usually a disorientation caused by a vestibular disorder – a disorder of the inner ear.

According to VEDA, a non-profit group that helps people with vestibular disorders, the body maintains balance with sensory information from three systems:

  • Vision
  • Proprioception (brain-body connection/awareness of the body)
  • Vestibular System (inner ear)

Each of these three systems receives input that is processed by your brain and then given a response back from the brain.

In short, your body is able to quickly adjust and deal with mixed signals to your vision or proprioception.

For instance, when you watch a train go by, you might continue to feel the sensation of moving even after the train is gone, but this feeling subsides quickly.

Or when you get off skates and begin to walk you might feel as if you are still skating, but after a short time, it returns to normal.

On the other hand, compensating for inner ear abnormalities becomes more problematic. When the vestibular system is thrown off, you may need to seek help in getting back on track.

Let’s take a look at the common causes of vertigo.

Related: 6 Signs You May Be Vitamin B12 Deficient 

What Causes Vertigo?

Vertigo can be caused by very simple things with an immediate fix, such as getting up too quickly, to very complicated brain problems such as a stroke.

The most common reasons for getting vertigo include:

  • BPVV (explained below)
  • Meniere’s Disease (inner ear disorder caused by buildup of fluid in the ear)
  • Migraine
  • Infections
  • Stroke
  • Tumors
  • Head or Neck Injuries

What is BPPV?  

Black table with medical equipment and text: "BPPV: Vertigo Overview"

BPPV, or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, is an inner-ear condition and one of the most common reasons for vertigo.

The inner ear sends signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Scott Eggers, BPPV is a mechanical disorder that develops because normal calcium particles that our inner ear creates in order to help us sense gravity and movement float in to the wrong part of the system.

In addition to feeling like the world is spinning, victims of BPPV can also develop rapid eye movement. Doctors use this eye movement to help identify BPPV.

Who Gets BPPV?

Anyone can experience it, but BPPV occurs move often in people over the age of 50.

Interestingly, women suffer from it more often than men, and those who have experienced a head injury are also at greater risk.

Can Vertigo Go Away On Its Own?

Vertigo is generally a problem of the vestibular system, which is why it can be so persistent and why you might not be able to shake it off so easily.

Over time, it’s possible that vertigo may go away on its own, but there are plenty of other solutions that might help it go away more quickly than simply waiting it out.

How To Treat BPPV

BPPV is relatively common and there are simple treatments or maneuvers that are easy and very effective.

A simple series of specific head positions help the crystals dislodge and float back to where they belong.

Here are four simple procedures that can be used to help with vertigo as well as several vertigo exercises videos to watch and help you understand the procedures better.

Remember to see your doctor first and rule out any deeper issues that may be causing your vertigo, as well as suggestions for which of the maneuvers below will fit your condition most effectively.

The Epley Maneuver 

The Epley Maneuver is a simple series of head movements that can help reposition the crystals of the inner ear back where they belong.

It will temporarily bring the dizzy feeling back, but should disappear by the time you finish.

Just be sure to have someone near you for help, should you need it.

How to Perform the Epley Maneuver:

  1. Determine which side of your head is causing the problem. The side affected is the side that causes symptoms when you lie on it.
  2. Get a pillow to place under your lower back when you lay down and sit with legs extended out in front of you on your bed, with room behind you to lay back.
  3. Turn your head 45 degrees toward the affected side and slowly lie down on your back keeping the head turned. Stay there for 30-45 seconds or until the dizzy feeling goes away.
  4. Now slowly turn your head the other direction to about 45 degrees and wait, once again, 30-45 seconds or until the dizziness stops.
  5. Slowly begin to sit up (still on the non-affected side) and bring legs over the side of the bed. The spinning should be gone. Take your time getting up again.
  6. Do not lie down again for at least 24 hours. Sleep in a chair or with pillows to raise you up.

Watch this video on how to properly perform the Eply Maneuver.

Animation of a woman lying on her back on a table showing how to turn her neck at a 45 degree angle. Text "hold position 30-60 seconds"

The Semont Maneuver

Similar to the Epley maneuver, the Semont Maneuver is a simple series of head movements that can help reposition the crystals of the inner ear back where they belong.

The Semont maneuver moves a bit more quickly than the Epley Manuever so you should let your doctor or physical therapist perform the maneuver on you.

This maneuver may temporarily bring the dizzy feeling back as well, but should disappear by the time the maneuver is complete.

How To Perform the Semont Maneuver:

  1. Determine which side is affected with BPPV. The side you lie on that causes symptoms is the affected side.
  2. Sit on the edge of a bed and turn your head 45 degrees away from the affected side.
  3. Quickly lie down on the side that is affected and be looking up at the ceiling once you lie down.
  4. If the dizzy feeling comes, stay in this position until it subsides.
  5. Return to a sitting position and then quickly turn to the affected side with eyes looking down at the ground.
  6. Stay in this position until the dizziness subsides.
  7. Gently sit up again. The symptoms should be gone.
  8. Do not lie down again for 24 hours. Sleep sitting upright or use pillows to keep you elevated.

Watch this video for further instructions on how to properly perform the Semont Maneuver. 

Boy sitting on a table in front of doctor with his hands crossed. Words on the bottom of the photo Liberatory/ Semont Maneuver with a play button

Brandt-Daroff Exercises 

The Brandt-Daroff Exercises are a series of 4 movements that can be done at home to help break up the crystals. It is simple and has very good success rate.

How To Perform Brandt-Daroff Exercises:

  1. Begin by sitting upright in bed (position 1 above).
  2. Lie down onto side. Take no more than 1-2 seconds to do this.
  3. Keep head looking up at 45-degree angle. Imagine someone standing about six feet in front of you, and keep looking at the person’s head at all times (position 2).
  4. Remain on this side for thirty seconds, or until dizziness subsides.
  5. Return to an upright position and wait for thirty seconds (position 3).
  6. Now lie down onto the other side. Again, it should take one or two seconds to get into position.
  7. Keep the head at a 45-degree angle (position 4).
  8. Stay down for another thirty seconds, or until vertigo subsides.
  9.  Return to an upright position and wait for another thirty seconds.

Repeat this series of positions 5 times for one set. It should take about 10 minutes. Do three sets per day every day for two weeks. View the diagram below of the Brandt & Daroff Exercises. 

Text: Brandt & Daroff Exercises; 4 different diagrams of a person showing how to do the brandt & daroff exercises

The Foster Maneuver 

The Foster Manuever, also known as the half somersault maneuver, was developed by Dr. Carol Foster, a sufferer of vertigo herself.

This is a relatively safe maneuver, but it is still important for you to seek a physician’s opinion before undertaking this exercise.

How To Perform The Foster Manuever:

  1. Kneel down and look up at the ceiling for a few seconds.
  2. Touch the floor with your head, tucking your chin so your head goes toward your knees. Wait for any vertigo to stop (about 30 seconds).
  3. Quickly raise your head so it’s fully upright, but keep your head turned to the shoulder of the side you’re working on. Then slowly stand up. You may have to repeat this a few times for relief. After the first round, rest 15 minutes before trying a second time.

Dr. Carol Foster herself explains The Foster Manuever in this short video clip below:

Dr. Carol Foster with play button

Other Treatment Options

These physical maneuvers are only one way to help with vertigo problems.  Depending on the cause of your condition, there may be other treatments available to help you. Here are a few:

Antibiotics: If your vertigo is caused by a bacterial infection, a prescription for antibiotics might do the trick. Check with your physician.

Anti-emetics or Antihistamines: Sometimes drugs used to help with motion sickness will relieve the symptoms of vertigo. Your doctor can give you options that may be helpful.

Surgery: In rare cases, surgery is used to help with BPPV vertigo. A surgeon inserts a bone plug into the inner ear to block the area where vertigo is occurring.

Can You Exercise with Vertigo?

Older woman exercising on stationary bike with vertigo and young woman assisting

Active people are the first to ask if they can continue with their workouts while recovering from vertigo. The short answer is yes!

However, you should hold off on certain exercises until a few weeks after successfully treating your vertigo.

According to Dr. Foster who developed the Foster Manuever, you should avoid making any vertical head movements for a few weeks after treatment.

This would include yoga moves like downward dog, upward dog, or anything involving looking up and bending over. Obviously headstands are out as well.

In addition, you should be aware of your overall movement being more controlled. Don’t jerk or perform sudden fast motions that may bring back your dizzy feelings.

You should also wait on swimming until you feel better. But for the most part you can definitely work out!  Lift weights. Cycle, run or walk. Do your routine!

Vertigo is a relatively common issue and one you can heal from. Talk with your doctor and use the above treatment options and exercises to get you back to full health quickly!

READ THIS NEXT: 9 Ways To Treat Neck Pain Naturally 

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