Head maneuvers most effective treatment for vertigo

Until recently, it's been unclear which of the many available treatments for vertigo works best. Now, a review of study data has found the most effective therapy is a safe, easy sequence of head movements, reports the August 2008 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Vertigo is not your average dizzy spell. It's a false sense of motion—a feeling of tilting, spinning, or swaying when you're not actually moving. It's often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sweating. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), the most common form, occurs mainly in people ages 60 and over, mostly women. As its name implies, BPPV is triggered by certain changes in position, particularly head position—such as turning in bed or tilting the head backward to look up. BPPV results from a malfunction of the vestibular (balance) system, which is housed in an inner ear structure called the labyrinth.

The malfunction that causes BPPV can have several causes, including age-related changes in the inner ear, infection, and head injury. It's thought to occur when calcium carbonate crystals become dislodged from part of the vestibular system and fall into one of the semicircular canals (part of the inner ear), interfering with normal movement of the fluid in the inner ear and disrupting signals to the brain. The result is vertigo when the head shifts.

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