People with vertigo can get relief by doing maneuvers at home, according to a study published in the July 13 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study involved people with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, an inner ear problem that causes a feeling of spinning or whirling when you move your head into certain positions. The vertigo usually lasts less than a minute. It can be mild or severe enough to cause nausea. It affects an estimated 64 people in every 100,000.
This type of vertigo is believed to be caused by loose particles floating in the inner ear canal, which maintains the body's equilibrium. Certain head and body movements can clear the particles from the ear canal. In general, the maneuvers are performed by a doctor or therapist.
"For most people, one treatment is all it takes to stop the vertigo," said study author Andrea Radtke, MD, a neurologist with Charité Campus Virchow Clinic in Berlin, Germany. "But some people need repeated treatments before it resolves completely. For these people, it would be beneficial to have the option to treat themselves at home."
The study involved 70 people who had experienced vertigo for an average of eight weeks. The study tested two different maneuvers. Both of the maneuvers involve head and body movements performed while sitting on a bed. Half of the people performed one maneuver and half performed the other. They received instructions for the maneuver and performed it once with the doctor. Then they performed the exercise three times a day at home until the vertigo had stopped for at least 24 hours.
After one week, 95 percent of those who performed the maneuver called the modified Epley's procedure had no more symptoms. Of those performing the modified Semont maneuver, 58 percent had no more symptoms.
The researchers recommend the modified Epley's procedure for people who do not get relief after a first treatment by a doctor or therapist or for people whose vertigo recurs frequently.
"People who are experiencing vertigo for the first time should still go see their doctor to make sure the vertigo doesn't have another cause, such as a disease or the side effect from a medication," said neurologist Joseph M. Furman, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pittsburgh, Pa., who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "But home treatment will be especially valuable for people who have frequent recurrences of benign vertigo, which can happen to about 50 percent of people over a four- or five-year period."
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is most common in people over the age of 50, and it occurs in women twice as often as in men. The average age of these study participants was 60, and 60 of the 70 participants were women.