If you sometimes experience the kind of dizziness that feels like a sudden spinning sensation, you’re probably experiencing benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
One of the most common causes of vertigo, BPPV causes brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness often triggered by specific changes in your head’s position. They can happen when you tip your head up or down, when you lie down, or when you turn over or get up after lying down. BPPV can be very disruptive, causing about 86 percent of its sufferers to miss days at work and experience interruptions in their daily lives.
Some potential causes of BPPV include a minor to a severe blow to the head or disorders that damage the inner ear. BPPV is sometimes associated with migraines. But often there’s no known cause for BPPV.
The ear can play a role in BPPV. There is a series of tiny semicircular canals inside your ear that contain fluid and fine, hairlike sensors that monitor your head’s rotation. Your ear also contains structures called otolith organs that monitor your head’s movements and position related to gravity. Your sensitivity to gravity is determined by crystals inside these otolith organs.
In BPPV, these crystals become dislodged and can move into one of the semicircular canals, particularly when you’re lying down. That canal then becomes sensitive to head position changes it normally would not respond to, causing you to feel dizzy.
Doctors can treat BPPV by performing a series of head movements to shift these crystals, but the condition tends to recur frequently. That’s why a simple remedy discovered recently by researchers is so exciting — it can actually lower the odds of experiencing BPPV…
Vitamin D and calcium: the magic formula
A Korean study published in the journal Neurology found that taking vitamin D and calcium twice daily may reduce your chances of getting BPPV again.
About 957 BPPV sufferers in Korea who were treated successfully with the head movements participated in the study. The 445 people in the intervention group had their vitamin D levels taken at the start of the study, and 348 people were found to have vitamin D levels below 20ng/mL. These subjects were started on 400 IUs of vitamin D and 500mg of calcium twice a day. Those with vitamin D levels equal to or greater than 20ng/mL were not given supplements.
The 512 people in the observation group did not have their vitamin D levels monitored and did not get supplements.
After an average of one year, those in the intervention group who took the supplements saw a 24 percent reduction in the annual recurrence rate of vertigo episodes than those in the observation group. A total of 38 percent of people in the intervention group had a vertigo episode, compared with 47 percent of those in the observation group.
The benefit was even greater among those who had low levels of vitamin D at the start of the study. Those in the intervention group who started the study with vitamin D levels below 10ng/mL experienced a 45 percent reduction in the annual recurrence rate.
One caveat is that a significant number of participants did not complete the entire study, with more people assigned to take the supplements dropping out than in the observation group.
Still, this study emphasizes the fact that you don’t necessarily have to have a doctor treat your vertigo. If you have BPPV, there are ways for you to manage your symptoms on your own…
Other ways to treat vertigo at home
The home Epley maneuver. Named for Dr. John Epley, this type of exercise can help treat the symptoms of BPPV. Although it was designed to be done with a health care provider, you can also do it yourself at home. It involves the following series of movements, done three times daily until your symptoms have been gone for 24 hours.
If your problem is with your right ear, start by sitting on a bed. Turn your head 45 degrees to the right, then quickly lie back, keeping your head turned. Your shoulders should now be on the pillow, and your head should be reclined. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Next, turn your head 90 degrees to the left, without raising it. Your head will now be looking 45 degrees to the left. Hold this for 30 seconds. Then, turn your head and body another 90 degrees to the left, into the bed. Hold for 30 seconds. Finally, sit up on the left side.
If the problem is with your left ear, sit on a bed and do the same routine — just reverse it. For instance, instead of turning your head 45 degrees to the right to start, you would turn it left, and so forth.
Ginger tea. Research indicates combining the Epley maneuver with ginger-partitioned moxibustion was more effective in reducing the effects of vertigo than the Epley maneuver alone. Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials are burned on or very close to the surface of the skin. It’s often used in conjunction with acupuncture.
If you’d rather not practice moxibustion on yourself, you can try soothing your vertigo symptoms with a cup of ginger root tea. Steep the ginger in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes and add honey to counteract the sharp taste. Drink it twice a way to help with dizziness, nausea and other vertigo symptoms.
Ginkgo biloba. Studies show that taking ginkgo biloba was just as effective as taking betahistine in treating vertigo symptoms. Ginkgo biloba is believed to work by improving cerebral blood flow.
Vitamin D twice a day may keep vertigo away — American Academy of Neurology
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) — Mayo Clinic
Home Epley maneuver — Johns Hopkins Medicine
What are the home remedies for vertigo? — Medical News Today
Treatment of Vertigo: A Randomized, Double-Blind Trial Comparing Efficacy and Safety of Ginkgo biloba Extract EGb 761 and Betahistine — International Journal of Otolaryngology
Clinical observation on ginger-partitioned moxibustion plus manual repositioning for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) — Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science