Posted by Joyce Kim
Do you have vertigo? Does it last for a short period and subside? Does your vertigo only happen when changing body positions? Then you may have a vestibular issue.
The vestibular system is one of sensory systems in the body that depicts your balance and where you are in space, in other words, where your body and head are located. The vestibular system is comprised of a peripheral and central subset. The central system uses a combination of the brain, nerves, and spinal cord to determine the head and body’s spacial positioning and balance. The peripheral system is what is known as the “inner ear” and consists of the cochlea, saccule, utricle, and semicircular canals. The cochlea sends signals to the auditory nerves to tell the brain what you are hearing. The utricle and saccule is filled with fluid and hair cells and has calcium carbonate crystals that move the fluid and hair cells with positional changes, emitting signals to the brain where you are in space. The semicircular canals do not have crystals but has the same fluid and hair bundles that sense the different head and body changes.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is when the crystals located in the utricle dislodge into the semicircular canals. When this happens, the inner ear sends a mismatch of information to the brain causing vertigo. It can happen from physical trauma, previous episode of BPPV, or idiopathic origin, meaning randomly without reason. BPPV symptoms typically include vertigo especially with positional changes or head movements that last for up to 30 seconds. BPPV is an easy fix with vestibular rehabilitation.
Vestibular rehabilitation consists of a wide array of methods including, but not limited to, canal repositioning maneuvers, balance training, habituation exercises, and functional training. For BPPV, treatment typically includes the canal repositioning maneuver which relocates the crystals back to the utricle using different body and head positions to do so.