Ester Marsh: What to do if you have vertigo

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2023

I wrote a column on vertigo a few years ago. I had my first bout with it then, and some lesser episodes since. I had a few people this week dealing with some symptoms similar to vertigo, so I figure it’s time to touch on it again.

So what is vertigo? From the dictionary: a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness.

As always, have your doctor properly diagnose you but causes of vertigo can be:

• Loosening of tiny crystals in your inner ear, also called BPPV — benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.

• Meniere’s disease: caused by a buildup of pressure and fluid in the inner ear.

• Migraine headaches

• Viral or bacterial infection in the ear

• Tinnitus: ringing in the ears

Some of the symptoms can be:

• Spinning

• Tilting

• Swaying

• Unbalanced

• Pulled to one direction

• Nauseated

• Vomiting

• Abnormal eye movements

• Headache

• Sweating

• Ringing in ears

Again, you should have your doctor diagnose you first and he or she might prescribe vestibular rehabilitation through physical therapy for the vestibular system, which sends signals to the brain about head and body movements relative to gravity. If you have dealt with vertigo or know someone who has, you might have heard of the Epley maneuver. It’s a technique you can do at home that can treat symptoms of BPPV.

Step one: Sit on the bed and turn your head to the side affected. To find out which side is affected, lie on your back with your head reclined and turn to one side for 30 seconds. The side where the room spins is the side affected. Mine is the left so I will start from the left. If your right is affected do the opposite. Start by turning your head to the left about 45 degrees for 30 seconds.

Step two: Quickly lie back where your shoulders are on a pillow so your head is reclined, keeping your head turned toward the left for 30 seconds.

Step three: Turn your head toward to right for 30 seconds.

Step four: Turn your body toward that side (right) and lie there for 30 seconds. Sit up from the right.

You can do these three times per day. What I have noticed when I had my bout of vertigo about two years ago, after initially not able to move much and eat much, for that day, exercising made me feel better. Safety is always first so if you have dizzy spells your chance of falls increases. I would kick out going up and down for a few workouts as that can set off an episode. So know where your limits are and before you do anything get a proper diagnosis from your doctor first.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.