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Exercises for Vertigo

One of the most difficult conditions a person can experience is Vertigo. At times it’ll feel as if the world around you is spinning. This issue is mostly caused by a problem with the inner ear. The most common causes that lead to vertigo are BPPV, also known as the paroxysmal positional vertigo as well as the vestibular neuritis or Meniere’s disease.

And since vertigo comes with some major symptoms such as spinning, tilting, unbalanced posture, the feeling of being pulled to one direction and even swaying, it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor for treatment.

However, some of the best treatments for vertigo come in the form of exercises. In this article we are going to cover the best exercises for vertigo to help relieve symptoms.

Exercises for Vertigo

These exercises for vertigo listed below should be performed under the supervision of an experienced and well trained physical therapist. Performing these exercises on your own without the aid of a professional can result in injury.

Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

exercises for vertigo relief

Your balance and the movements of your eyes are controlled by the vestibular system, which includes parts of the inner brain and ear. People with a damaged vestibular system often experience symptoms of vertigo and dizziness. The exercises performed in Vestibular rehabilitation therapy help improve inner ear and balance problems, dizziness, and abnormal eye movements.

This therapy includes simple exercises that are designed to bring in compensation. What this means is that your brain will begin to utilize (compensate by using) other senses to replace the damaged vestibular system.

There are some people that start to function better and recover through compensation on their own after a period of time. However, for those who don’t experience compensation soon enough vestibular rehabilitation therapy can help speed up the process.

This is definitely a great exercise program that can help with recurrent vertigo bouts. There are 3 main exercises used in VRT to help promote compensation and help with recovery. These 3 exercises are gaze stabilization, balance training, and habituation. You will need to be evaluated by a physical therapist first in order to determine what exercise method should be prescribed.

Only an experienced physician, therapist, audiologist, chiropractor, otolaryngologist, or neurologist will be able to determine the problems causing the vestibular disorder, and be able to prescribe the exercises that’ll take care of that specific problem.

To find the best providers of VRT you should contact your doctor and get a referral. A great place to start looking is the vestibular disorders association, or VEDA. We’ve found that they offer a great list of therpists who specialize in vestibular rehabilitation therapy.

Gaze Stabilization

In order to help you control your eye movements better so that vision can be clear during head movement gaze stabilization exercises are implemented. Fixating your eyes on a specific object while moving your head back and forth or up and down for a few minutes is one form of this exercise. Another gaze stability exercise commonly used involves the use of vision and body sense to substitute the vestibular system that has been damaged.

Balance Training Exercises

Depending on the type of balance problems you’re experiencing your therapist will recommend certain balance training exercises to help improve your steadiness. Balance exercises will involve coordinated movements, dual tasks that will be performed while maintaining balance, and dynamic movements.

Habituation Exercises

The dizzy and spinning sensation often experienced with vertigo are dealt with through habituation exercises. The idea of this exercise is to decrease the dizzy sensations you experience by exposing you to the feeling over and over again. Habituation exercises accomplish this by promoting dizziness through visual stimulation and certain movements.

After a while the intensity of the dizzy and spinning sensations you experience will become less and more manageable. This is because after repeated exposure your brain will adapt and start to ignore the freakish signals it’s getting from your inner ear.

Canalith Re-Positioning Procedures

exercises for vertigo

Also known as the epley maneuver or the particle re-positioning, canalith re-positioning procedures aims to put an end to false signals being sent to the brain due to BPPV by re-positioning the misplaced canaliths that have entered the semicircular canals of the inner ear. Designed by Dr. John Epley, CRP will move the canaliths to the utricle where they belong, which should stop the symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.

Click the image to get a visual of how these re-positioning exercises move the unwanted particles in the inner ear. 

As mentioned earlier, the maneuvers/head movements performed through CRP must be done by a professional therapist who will carefully watch the patients eye movements with each change of position. Moreover, performing these head movements without the guidance of a trained professional can lead to injury to the back or neck. 

There are certain medical conditions that can cause you to not be a good candidate for CRP. Some of these health conditions include vertebrovascular insufficiency, perilymph fistula, and esophageal reflux.

Video Demonstration

The Semont Maneuver

epley exercises for vertigo

Another form of the canalith repositioning procedures is the semont maneuver. This exercise for vertigo was designed by Dr. Alain Semont and it helps stop vertigo symptoms by moving debris from the posterior canal in the inner ear.

Both the epley maneuver and the semont maneuver are used to naturally treat BPPV, but in order to determine which procedure should be performed a Dix-Hallpike test is used. The Dix-Hallpike test will tell the doctor which one of the inner ear canals is affected (the semicircular canal or the posterior canal).

With the Semont maneuver the physical therapist will first sit you on the exam table and then quickly move you from lying on one side to lying on the other (see the diagram above). It is because of this rapid movement of this procedure that makes it less favorable than the Epley maneuver.

Brandt-Daroff Exercises

vestibular exercises for vertigo

These vertigo exercises have been used a lot less since the Epley maneuver has become more popular. Unlike the other exercises listed above the Brandt-Daroff exercises can be done at home without the supervision.

Also, the main difference with these exercises is the fact that they don’t reposition the particles in your ear but instead disperse them with head movements that you perform repeatedly. Eventually you’ll habituate to the symptoms of vertigo.

Compared to CRP these exercises will take a little longer to see results. Also, you will have to be disciplined and patient in performing the exercise day in and day out. When you perform Brandt and Daroff exercises you should perform 3 sets every day for 14 days. To complete one set you will need to perform 5 repetitions of the exercise. It takes about ten minutes to perform each set.

  1. To begin a set you will need sit up straight on your bed with your legs hanging off.
  2. Now lay down onto your side on the bed. This shouldn’t take more than 2 seconds.
  3. Now while laying on your side keep your head looking up at 45 degree angle.
  4. Stay on this side with your head looking up at a 45 degree angle for 30 seconds, or until dizziness stops.
  5. Now sit up straight on the bed and wait for 30 seconds.
  6. Now lay back down on the bed but this time on the other side.
    Keep your head at a 45 degree angle.
  7. Remain in this position for another 30 seconds, or until you notice your vertigo symptoms stop.
  8. Now sit up straight and wait for another 30 seconds.

Video Demonstration

Half Somersault Maneuver

Also known as the foster maneuver, the half somersault maneuever was created by Dr. Carol Foster as a home-based treatment for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This maneuver works by rolling out the particles in the posterior/inferior semicircular canal of the inner ear.

The process used to perform this exercise will be different depending on if you’re treating vertigo in your left ear or the right ear. In order to know for sure if it is the right ear or the left ear affected you will need to get a Dix-Hallpike test performed.

This maneuver is much easier to perform compared to the others mentioned earlier. However, if you are someone who is not flexible or has an injury to your knee, neck, or back then this procedure can be difficult to carry out.

How to Perform the Half Somersault for the right ear:

  1. Get down on your hands and knees on your bed or on the floor while keeping your head tilted straight up so that you’re looking up at the ceiling.
  2. Now position your head upside down on the floor just as if you were going to perform a somersault. Make sure you tuck in your chin so that your head touches the floor close to the back of your head. If you feel symptoms of vertigo then that indicates the particles are going in the right direction. Don’t move from this position until the symptoms of vertigo have stopped. You can use your fingers to tap on your head behind the right ear to help move the particles move along.
  3. Now turn your head slowly to face your right elbow. Your head will remain turned to the right for the remainder of this maneuver. Before moving to the following step you have to wait until the vertigo stops.
  4. Keeping your head turned to the right and looking at your right elbow, raise your head to shoulder level as fast as possible. Make sure you head remains in a 45 degree angle to the floor while performing this procedure. Wait for about 15 seconds or until you notice your vertigo subside.
  5. Once the half somersault procedure has been performed you should wait for 15 minutes and then tip your head quickly upward and then downward. What this does is makes sure no dizziness happens, and if not then you won’t need to do the procedure over again. If you do still feel a little dizziness when you quickly elevate your head up and then down then you should repeat the maneuver. Repeat this procedure the next time vertigo symptoms occur.
  6. When you perform this maneuver you have to wait about 15 minutes between each step so that particles can settle. After you perform this procedure make sure you sleep with 2 or more pillows propped up for a couple nights. Also, when the maneuver has been performed you should sleep only on your left side for a week.

To perform the half somersault for the left ear repeat the same procedures as listed above but you will need to turn your head to face your left elbow instead of the right elbow.

Check out this Video Demonstration of the somersault maneuver.

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