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January 11, 2010

Positional Vertigo

I was reading a book several years ago called Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. One of the story lines involved feuding neighbors, one of which had devastating dizzy spells. During a heated argument, one of the spells hit and the other neighbor laid him on his back, moved his head around, and cured his dizzy spells. They became friends after that.

As a body worker, I was astounded and intrigued by this hands-on healing. It was the first time I heard of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This week during neurorehabilitation class, we've been studying the vestibular system which is housed in the ear and controls balance and spacial awareness.

I had a massage client who experienced positional vertigo. He had been hit in the head and the otoliths (little crystals in the inner ear) broke off and started floating around in the gel-like matrix in the semicircular canals. In people under 50, trauma is usually the cause of BPPV, but in older individuals the vestibular system can begin to break down and the condition occurs spontaneously or as a result of a virus or stroke. Every time I had him turn over on my table, he would get a terrible dizzy spell that would last for several minutes.

I always wished I had been trained to do this simple maneuver and help with the problem. I don't know if this procedure is within the scope of practice of massage therapy, but it is relatively easy to do. Extreme nausea is not unusual during treatment, so it's helpful to keep a bucket handy. And, it's important to be properly trained so that you know how to recognize what type of BPPV a person has and how to handle them correctly.

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Posted by linda at January 11, 2010 6:34 PM

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