BPPV – SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT 2018-02-27T09:36:24+00:00

BPPV – Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment


One of the most prevalent causes of vertigo is Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). It presents with the symptom the sudden sensation of spinning on change of position or while turning in bed. BPPV is an inner ear problem. It ensues when some of the calcium carbonate crystals (otoconia) that are typically embedded in the gel in the utricle become displaced and migrate into one or more of the three fluid-filled semicircular canals. When these otoliths accumulate in one of the canals in the inner ear, they meddle with the natural fluid movement that these canals use to sense head motion, causing the inner ear to send false signals to the brain.

The spinning sensation or vertigo lasts less than one minute. Between vertigo spells, some people feel no symptoms, while others feel a mild sense of imbalance or disequilibrium.


There are many causes of BPPV. Some of the prevalent ones are:

  1. Head injury
  2. Bed rest
  3. Old age
  4. Ear infection
  5. Ear surgery
  6. Going into odd positions


However, in many patients of BPPV, there may be no discernable causes. What is termed as idiopathic?

The symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) may include:

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

The symptoms of BPPV can waver, with episodes usually lasting less than one minute. Episodes of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo can disappear for some time and then recur.

It has been observed that the symptoms are triggered when the person changes his head position. Some people also feel off-balance when they are standing or walking.

Abnormal rhythmic eye movements, called as nystagmus usually accompany the symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.


When someone with BPPV moves their head into a particular position that makes the dislodged crystals stimulate balance nerve fibres, the wrong signals cause the eyes to move in a very distinct pattern, referred to as “nystagmus”.

The connection between the inner ears and the eye muscles allow us to stay focused on our environment while the head is moving this is called the Vestibulo-ocular reflex(VOR). Since the stimulation by the dislodged crystals cause the brain to think that the person is moving when in reality he is not, it falsely causes the eyes to move, which makes it look like the room is rotating. The eye movement provides the hint that something is happening in the inner ear canals that are moving the fluid when it shouldn’t have moved.

The nystagmus will have different characteristics according to the placement of the displaced crystals within the semi-circular canals.

Tests like the Dix-Hallpike or Roll Tests involve moving the head into specific positions, which makes gravity to migrate the dislodged crystals and trigger vertigo while the practitioner watches for the revealing eye movements or nystagmus. These tests when done under VNG guided magnification and recording allow an exact diagnosis of the position of the otolith particles. After ascertaining the position of the crystals, the manoeuvre required to remove the crystals would be decided.


The specialist will conduct a Dix-Hallpike test to diagnose BPPV. The Dix-Hallpike examination evaluates the eye movements of the BPPV patients while she lies back and turns her head. Any involuntary eye movements indicate the presence of BPPV in the posterior semicircular canal.

The Dix-Hallpike test also helps the doctor to diagnose which ear has the problem and treat accordingly. Other tests like the McClure Roll test are done to check if there are otoliths in the lateral semicircular canals.



There are two kinds of BPPV: Canalithiasis and Cupulolithiasis.

In Canalithiasis, the loose crystals can move freely in the fluid of the canal.

On the other hand, Cupulolithiasis is a rare pattern of otolith dislodgement. In this condition, the crystals get stuck on the bundle of nerves that sense the fluid movement (cupula).

In canalithiasis, it takes less than a minute for the crystals to stop moving after the head position is changed to a particular angle that has triggered vertigo. The fluid movement settles, once the calcium carbonate crystals stop moving. Subsequently, nystagmus and vertigo stop too.

In cupulolithiasis, the crystals attached to the bundle of sensory nerves cause the nystagmus, and vertigo lasts longer often until the head is moved out of the offending position. It is important to make this distinction, as the treatment is different for each variant.

MRI does not help in the diagnosis of BPPV.



Medication like vestibular suppressants does not help in BPPV. They are meant to suppress the sensation of Vertigo rather than treat the BPPV.

If the cause of BPPV is ear infection or inflammation, the doctor would prescribe antibiotics and other medications. The doctor may suggest antiemetics to treat acute nausea and vomiting associated with severe vertigo cases.

Medicines do not help in the treatment of BPPV. Surgical treatment is required only in sporadic cases where Maneuvres are not effective or recurrence becomes common.


BPPV can be corrected by different repositioning manoeuvres depending on the position of the particles. Once your health care provider diagnoses which canal or canals the crystals are in and what type of BPPV it is (canalithiasis or cupulolithiasis), then he can take you for the suitable manoeuvre.

The manoeuvres use gravity to guide the crystals back into their chamber where they belong via a particular sequence of head positioning called Canalith Repositioning Maneuvers.

In the case of cupulolithiasis, quick head movement at the level of the affected canal is used to dislodge the ‘hung-up’ crystals, called a Liberatory Maneuver.

Epley’s manoeuvre is one of the most commonly used manoeuvres to treat BPPV. However, that will not work for all types of BPPV.

Often people try the Epley’s manoeuvre themselves or have it performed on them by a practitioner, without seeing any success. Later assessments reveal that it is a different manoeuvre that should have been used, instead of Epley Maneuver as the Otolith was stuck in a different canal Or sometimes, the condition may have been wrongly diagnosed as BPPV, where in reality it is not BPPV at all!

Other manoeuvres used for canalith repositioning include the Semont’s manoeuvre, Gufoni manoeuvre, Vanucchi manoeuvre, deep head hanging, reverse Epley, etc. These exercises are recommended for different kinds of BPPV. That is why doctors urge caution while using self-treatment or being treated by someone who is not trained in identifying different variants of BPPV and several treatment exercises.

Over a period the brain gets habituated and ignores the erratic signals it is receiving. Brandt – Daroff exercise is beneficial in compensating the brain to ignore the false signals triggered by the otoliths.


Epley and Semont Maneuvers help in repositioning the canaloliths in the ear to reduce vertigo. The canalolith repositioning activities if correctly done can treat the patient on the table without medication.


This exercise is popularly preferred to treat BPPV. When an experienced doctor conducts the Epley manoeuvre on a BPPV patient, it can bring about almost instantaneous results.

At NeuroEquilibrium, the trained professionals assist the BPPV patients with Epley manoeuvre done under VNG-guidance.

How To Do Epley Maneuver?

The steps below describe the Maneuvre for BPPV of the right posterior semicircular canal.

Step 1: First, you sit on the table with your legs stretched straight in front of you.

Step 2: The therapist will turn your head to the right at 45 degrees.

Step 3:. The therapist will then take you to the head swiftly hanging position 300 lower.

Step 4: This position should be held for about 30 seconds or until the vertigo ceases.

Step 5: Now, the head is turned to the opposite side, so that it is 45 degrees to the left.

Step 6: Hold this position for 30 more seconds or until the vertigo ceases.

Step 7: Patient is turned further Turn to the left side and kept there for 30 seconds more. Note that, you should not turn to the side which has vertigo problem.

Step 8: Get up slowly, sit on the edge of the table until you feel comfortable to stand up.

The doctor will help to manoeuvre your head swiftly from one side to another so that the canaliths move back to their correct position.


This Repositioning exercise is best done assisted by a trained doctor or a therapist. Similar to the Epley manoeuvre, Semont’s manoeuvre to helps the otoliths to be liberated and repositioned to their correct position.

How To Do Semont Maneuver?

Step 1: Your doctor will suggest you to sit on the table with your legs down.

Step 2: If you have a problem on the left side, the therapist will turn your head to the right at 45 degrees. Vice-versa if you have a problem on your right side.

Step 3: Holding your head at 45 degrees to your right you will be made to go down on your left side, with your nose facing up.

Step 4: This position is held for 30 seconds.

Step 5: Now, holding your head in the same direction, you will be swiftly swung to the opposite side. In this position, your nose will be pointing down at the table.

Step 6: Hold this position for 30 more seconds.

Step 7: You will be helped to sit back gently on the table until you feel fit to stand up.

Epley and Semont manoeuvres are very efficient to treat BPPV. That makes them popular and the first choice of treatment for BPPV.

Barbeque Maneuver– This manoeuvre is used for patients suffering from BPPV of the lateral semicircular canals.



This exercise helps the brain cope with the confusing signals it receives, as a result of inner ear problems. Brandt-Daroff exercise is done two-three times daily, for several weeks to get the desired results.

How To Do Brandt-Daroff Exercise?

Step 1: Sit straight on the bed with your legs down.

Step 2: Turn the head 45 degrees to your left. Take the body down to the right so that the head is on the bed and nose facing upwards.

Step 3: This position is to be held for 30 seconds or until your vertigo symptoms subside.

Step 4: Sit back as in step 1.

Step 5: Now turn your head 45 degrees to your right and take the body to the left with the nose facing upwards.

Step 6: Hold this position for 30 more seconds.

Step 7: Get up and sit on the bed. These steps are repeated 3 times twice a day. The exercise should be done in the presence of an attendant to support the patient if the Vertigo is strong.


Ear surgery works when none of the above treatments works, surgery may be required.

Some of the types of surgeries that can be performed to treat BPPV are singular neurectomy,

and canal occlusion or plugging. (more info)


In the general scenario, the symptoms of BPPV are not severe. If they are severe, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Emergency Conditions Requiring Immediate Medical Help:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in seeing
  • Falling off
  • Stroke
  • Fainting
  • Balance disorder
  • paralysis in any part of the body
  • Feeling numb or weak in any part of the body
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Unbearable headache
  • Incessant vomiting
  • Loss of hearing ability
  • Chest pain

NeuroEquilibrium has sophisticated devices to diagnose BPPV and offer customised medical treatments for patients suffering from vertigo and balance disorder issues.

Collaborate with us to set up advanced vertigo and balance clinics or buying NeuroEquilibrium™ equipment. Please drop us an email at partner@neuroequilibrium.in


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