March 2

Is my Vertigo BPPV? How do I know?


Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common causes of vertigo. It is the sudden and very strong feeling that you are spinning with positional changes of the head. It most often comes on with turning in bed or changing positions and usually lasts less than one minute.

BPPV occurs when the crystals in the inner ear are loose and have moved into an area they are not supposed to be in. This causes inaccurate information to be sent to the brain about where the head is in space. The result is a feeling of severe spinning and nystagmus (horizontal, vertical and/or torsion movement of the eyes). The loose or displaced crystals can be caused by a head injury or an unknown mechanism. It is most commonly seen in older individuals due to ageing and can occur due to age-related degeneration of the inner ear.

If you have symptoms of vertigo, it can be very scary and debilitating. To determine if your vertigo or dizziness is due to the displacement of crystals in your inner ear, the Dix Hallpike test needs to be completed. It is important to have a health care provider with specialized training in BPPV and vertigo complete the vertigo assessment.

The Dix Hallpike test is a specific movement pattern completed to bring on vertigo and nystagmus. By assessing the direction of nystagmus, when it comes on, and how long it lasts, we are able to determine where the crystals are located. Once we know where they are, we can use specific treatment maneuvers to move the crystals back to where they are supposed to be. Although the assessment and treatment bring on vertigo, they are very effective in treating BPPV and can relieve symptoms immediately.

Kristine Fairbanks, MScPT, has been helping people from Edmonton with BPPV with great success. If you have further questions about Vestibular Rehabilitation, please contact her at


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