Ever shift around in bed, or get out of bed and the room starts spinning? This is called Vertigo, Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV) or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) depending on how technical you want to be. Vertigo is caused by a dysfunction of the inner ear, usually an infection, trauma, or even aging. BPV causes dizziness and a feeling of falling because of false input from the inner ear to the proprioceptors in the head and neck. BPV can be mild, only lasting a moment, or more severe, lasting from days to weeks.
Canaliths and Vertigo (BPV)
Inside the inner ear are little tiny crystals, which are normally attached to the otolithic membrane in the utricle of the inner ear, called canaliths. When they are functioning normally, they work like a lock and key mechanism, connecting snugly to the membrane of your inner ear.
Every once in a while occurs a distortion of the fluid of your inner ear, either too much or too little fluid or perhaps an infection. Or, you get your neck into an improper position through some sort of trauma, and the little canaliths become malpositioned—the lock and key mechanism isn’t fitting in perfectly as it has moved out of alignment.
When you lie down or position your head in any position other than upright, for example when you sleep, the detached canaliths can move out of the utricle and take a trip down into the semicircular canals, which are lined with sensitive nerve hairs that read every single movement. Every time the canaliths brush past, you feel dizzy, nauseated and like you might fall over.
Proprioceptors and Vertigo (BPV)
Proprioception means “sense of self.” Proprioceptors are special sensors that tell your body exactly where it is in space—for example, if you are right side up—and help you maintain balance. The greatest density happens to be in your very upper neck, which is called the atlas. These act as a feedback mechanism between your inner ear and your brain.
When the canaliths stimulate the hairs in the semicircular canals as they move past and around them, those hairs tell your proprioceptors that you are upside down, sideways or otherwise not positioned normally according to the laws of gravity on this planet. Your proprioceptors deliver this false information to the brain. As a result, you feel like you’re on a roller coaster when you’re just lying in bed.
Self Treatment for Mild Vertigo (BPV)
One self-treatment for vertigo is called the Canalith Repositioning Maneuver, where you lie down positioning your head on the affected side. Then you quickly switch over to the opposite side, repeating several times. (See above graphic). It’s a case of where the poison is the remedy, in other words, you simply keep doing what you did in the first place to cause the problem. When you do this motion, you reset the canaliths, putting the lock right back into the key.
If this doesn’t work, your health care provider can take you through more complicated resetting maneuvers in order to return the canaliths to their proper position and help cure your vertigo, or BPV.