Harvard Health Letter

Reducing vertigo symptoms

Vertigo is common in older adults, and it can lead to balance problems and falls, which can result in fractures, immobility, and death. The most common form of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).

Inside the ear are three tiny canals that help us recognize the position of our body in space, which help us maintain balance. BPPV happens when tiny crystals in the inner ear become dislodged and bang around inside the canals. Simply looking up or rolling over in bed can dislodge crystals and cause brief bouts of extreme dizziness, including a sensation of spinning. A physical therapist can guide you through a number of exercises to reposition the loose crystals and reduce the symptoms of vertigo.

One of the most effective exercises is the Epley maneuver. The therapist will have you lie back, gently move your head to the left and right, then have you roll over and sit back up. Each position moves the loose crystals through the ear canal, repositioning them to relieve symptoms in as little as 10 minutes.

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