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Vertigo is a sensation of spinning which is most often caused by dysfunction of the vestibular system. The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information related to regulating balance and eye movements. It is estimated that 7.4% of adults will experience vertigo in their lifetime. True vertigo has a spinning or rotational component and results in the perception of movement. Unlike vertigo, dizziness is a sensation of lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness without a sense of spinning or rotation.

BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) is characterized by recurrent attacks of vertigo that are triggered by head motion, with symptoms lasting less than one minute. It is the most common vestibular disorder seen in the clinic and may account for up to one-third of vertigo presentations. It is a well understood disorder and for which an effective treatment exists.

Treatment of BPPV consists of repositioning maneuvers found in physical therapy, usually with a success rate of over 95%. Often times, those affected by BPPV show, for some weeks after the repositioning maneuvers, postural instability and impaired postural control, which can be addressed with additional exercises prescribed by a physical therapist.

There are certainly many other causes of vertigo that are not related to BPPV. If you are suffering from symptoms of vertigo, it would be best to consult your physician and/or physical therapist to delineate the cause of your vertigo and to establish appropriate treatment.

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Nickolas Alessandroni, PT, DPT, FDN1, AIB-VR