What Is Positional Vertigo?


Positional vertigo is also called BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. According to the Mayo Clinic (see Reference 1), positional vertigo is a common cause of vertigo. While BPPV is not a serious medical disorder, it can cause discomfort. Elderly people with vertigo may have a greater risk than others of falling. Your doctor can help you treat and cope with your vertigo.


Your inner ear is a complex structure containing fluid, sensors and otolith organs that monitor your movements and the position of your head. The otolith organs contain tiny crystals. If these crystals are dislodged, you can become more sensitive to normal head movements. This results in dizziness.


Often, mild to severe blows to the head can cause the ear’s crystals to become dislodged. Your doctor can also determine if a disorder is to blame for damage to your inner ear, or even if damage occurred during ear surgery.


The common symptoms of positional vertigo include dizziness, light-headedness, unsteadiness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, balance problems and the sensation that your surroundings are spinning around you.


While dizziness and vertigo are undesirable, positional vertigo does not usually result in other medical complications. However, if your dizziness causes frequent vomiting, you should avoid becoming dehydrated.


Treatment for positional vertigo consists of a type of physical therapy called the canalith repositioning procedure. Your doctor will manipulate your head movements in a way that moves the crystals out of your ear canal and into an area where they will not cause dizziness. For several days following the procedure, you will need to keep your head elevated while sleeping or lying down. Prop your head up on a couple of pillows. The canalith repositioning procedure may need to be repeated a few times until the dizziness subsides.

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