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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists


Vertigo also medically known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a debilitating condition. It is an inner ear disorder in which changes in the position of the head, such as tipping the head backwards, head rotation can lead to vertigo– a feeling that the room is spinning. The vertigo sensation can range from mild to severe and usually lasts only a few minutes. Symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness.
  • A sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving (vertigo)
  • A loss of balance or unsteadiness.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting



What’s happening?

In the inner ear there are 3 semi – circular canals. Which are roughly situated at 90 degrees to one and other. These canals are lined with hair cells and fluid called endolymph which flows through the canals. As the head moves and fluid stimulates the hair cells. This allows us to detect head movement eg nodding of the head, turning etc.

Slightly further down from the semi – circular canals is the utricle and saccule. In these structures there a calcium carbonate structures called an otolith/ otoconia. Together these make up the otolith organ. The otolith organs sense gravity and linear acceleration.

The problem occurs when the otoconia gets displaced from the utricle and saccule and moves into one of the semi –circular canals. The otocnia are now moving freely in the canals stimulating the hair cells. The makes the brain think that you are moving even when you’re not. This is what causes the sensation of dizziness, spinning, nausea to name a few of the symptoms. There a 3 different types of vertigo. Which canal the otoconia floats into will cause a certain type of vertigo which is aggravated by different positions and movements.

What can Physiotherapy do?

The good news is vertigo is very treatable and is straight forward to diagnose. Vestibular physiotherapy is a specialised area of physio which allows us to safely diagnose and treat this condition. We use some very simple positional test to provoke your symptoms this allows us to identify which type of vertigo you have and from there we go straight into treatment. The treatment involves several different positional changes of the head which allows us to work the otoconia back out of the semi-circular canal. This is generally a very effective treatment method with symptoms often being resolved or extremely diminished depending on the severity.

If the vertigo issue has been longstanding for months or years and therefore has resulted in additional balance, coordination and motor control deficit we can prescribe a tailored vestibular rehabilitation program to suit your specific needs.


If we can help you with your vertigo, please feel free to get in touch – 091 569706

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