By Emmanuel Rey, Physiotherapist
VERTIGO V/S FEELING LIGHT HEADED
Vertigo is a condition that makes you feel like everything around you is spinning. It comes from the latin word “vertere” to spin. Vertigo is different from feeling light headed, which is often linked to low blood pressure and happens when standing too fast from sitting or lying. Mostly lightheadedness is resolved by lying down or within a few seconds of remaining still. Vertigo presents with some subtle differences.
MESSAGES TO THE BRAIN
Your sense of balance and spatial awareness results from the compilation of information by your brain (the cerebellum to be precise) from multiple receptors in your body:
1. Your eyes will register movement, vertically or horizontally.
2. Your inner ear is the main organ for balance. It has three gel filled, semi hollow rings (or semi-circular conducts). When you move your head the gel inside those rings will move and sends information about the movement to the brain.
3. Within your joints are proprioceptors (joint space receptors), which provide feedback to the brain about where your body and its component parts are positioned. You don’t have to see or feel if your arm or leg is straight or bent, you sense it. This is proprioception. Even the soles of your feet register pressure on the ground, giving feedback to the brain, letting us know how the weight of the body is shifting. All this information is collated, instantaneously, providing balance and stability.
BENIGN PAROXYSMAL POSITIONAL VERTIGO (BPPV)
When the above information is not relayed correctly to the brain, the experience is commonly known as Vertigo or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV).
This condition can be effectively treated by our physiotherapists, with a few precise yet simple movements.
If you have been diagnosed with BPPV you might argue the ‘benign’ term! It just stands for ‘not harmful’ to you and most of the BPPV’s treated with the right technique resolve quite quickly.
Nobody will deny the fact that the feeling of vertigo is not the best in the world. Generally BPPV will be triggered by certain positions of your head, resulting in sensations of the room spinning and can bring on nausea – not pleasant at all.
WHAT IS HAPPENING DURING A BPPV INCIDENT?
Crystals in the gel inside the semi-circular conducts (SCC’s)become loosened. When you move your head, the gel with the loose crystals moves around the SCC’s. This has an effect like when you shake a souvenir snow globe and the snowflakes take time to settle. The movement of the crystals sends confusing and false information to the brain, resulting in the vertigo effect. Et voila!!!!!
HOW CAN A PHYSIO HELP?
There are some simple assessments and treatment techniques to shift the crystals out of the semi-circular conducts. The most well-known technique is called the Epley Manoeuvre, comprising a series of co-ordinated body and head movements, allowing for the shift of the crystals, and thereby restoring correct information relay to the brain.
WHAT WOULD YOU EXPERIENCE DURING A TREATMENT SESSION?
The physio would hold your head in a certain position, comfortably, to determine the trigger of the current vertigo symptoms. In this way they can determine which of the SCC crystals is creating the issue. Using some specific techniques to target the responsible SCC’s, the practitioner would assist you to move quickly into a contra position, to reposition the crystals. These techniques are safe and pain free.
It is quite normal to experience the vertigo symptoms during these techniques. In fact it is a positive sign that the technique is working (remember the snow globe?).
Following application of the techniques, the practitioner will suggest some post-treatment exercises and positional precautions (to be followed to the letter).