Medical Minute 6-23:

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

It's like going through life constantly feeling like you're on a roller coaster.

"I woke up one morning, and I rose up, and I was spinning uncontrollably," said Shelby Bearden.

And for avid gardener Shelby Bearden, it came from out of the blue.

"It came on like that (a snap)."

It's called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, and it can be triggered just by moving your head.

It all starts in your ears: Normally, crystals called otoliths move around in the semicircular canals in your inner ear, touching tiny hair cells which send information about your head's position to your brain.

But when one of those crystals becomes stuck in a canal, it makes the hair cells respond to changes in position-- that aren't really happening. That leads to the dizziness and nausea. Kristy Olthoff is a physical therapist certified in vestibular rehab.

Kristy uses a special set of maneuvers, called a canalith repositioning procedure, to get people with BPPV back on their feet.

"I turn her head to the right, lay back with her head extended and that caused the crystal in the right posterior canal to move into this position down here, then the next position moved in here, until finally it ducked into that central part.Typically, with one session, with one treatment people have no symptoms," said Kristy Olthoff, P.T.

These exercises might seem simple, but Kristy warns-- don't try this at home.

"It can be very dangerous… you don't know which ear is involved and there are three canals in both ears."

Thanks to Kristy, Shelby is no longer feeling dizzy

"She cured me in one session. One session after six months of my life being on hold."


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  • by Mary Location: Tally on Jun 24, 2011 at 06:48 AM
    I have lived with this for 5 long years. I cannot wait to call this physical therapist and hopefully be able to drive a car again. YAHOO! Thanks for this piece, it will be life changing if it works!
  • by Dottie Location: Tallahassee on Jun 24, 2011 at 05:24 AM
    I have problems with position vertigo (BBPV). I have had 4 sessions with a PT recently. It will go away for a few days and then comes back. This is not the first time either. I had it in 2006. It is so frustrating.
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