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Vertigo: Symptoms and Treatments

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a term commonly used however often mis-used. Vertigo is not the fear of heights, or simply feeling dizzy, but more easily explained as a feeling like the room is spinning. It’s a bit like when you get off a boat after being on rough water, you feel like you’re still moving. It is sometimes described as the feeling you get after you’ve spun around in circles for a while, then stop.

What causes Vertigo?

There are numerous causes of vertigo but 93% of cases are caused by Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), Meniere’s Disease or Acute peripheral vestibulopathy (APV) (1). These three conditions aren’t sinister and can be treated/managed in most people. BPPV is the condition that physiotherapists tend to deal with most as the other two are more often managed through your GP. If you appear to have another underlying condition, your physiotherapist will refer you to your GP for further opinion.

What is BPPV?

The inner ear contains three semi-circular shaped canals filled with fluid that provide information about head position. As you move your head in space, hair cells with fibres sense the movement by detecting the movement of fluid within these canals. Crystals occur naturally in these canals but can become dislodged and disrupt the flow of fluid which will cause the vertigo. Given the anatomy of the vestibular system it is more likely these clumps will form in areas which cause symptoms when you look up or to one side (2).

What are the causes BPPV?

BPP vertigo is often classed as “idiopathic”, meaning we typically don’t know it’s exact cause.  However, we do know its risk factors which include: trauma to the head, following ear surgery, prolonged periods of leaning back and being over 50 years of age. Vertigo is more common in women than men (3). Some of these factors you can’t control but if there are postural habits or behaviours which are making recurrences more common, these can be identified and adjusted.

What treatment options do I have?

Treatment for vertigo can vary depending on which type you have. Often your GP will discuss various medication which can make the symptoms more bearable or manageable. Treatment for BPPV will include physiotherapy assessment and treatment techniques to settle the crystals into the area of the canals where they don’t disrupt the flow of fluid. As long as they don’t continue to disrupt the flow of fluid, crystals dissolve in time. Physiotherapists will also look at movement patterns and postural habits which may lead to recurrences and look to address these with you.

Vertigo is a very stressful and unpleasant condition. Rest assured, physiotherapy is a treatment option, so contact us at Fairfield Physiotherapy on 9489 7744. We can help with identifying the potential causes of your vertigo and direct you to the best treatment for your case.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/vertigo#causes
  2. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Benign_Positional_Paroxysmal_Vertigo_(BPPV)
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vertigo/symptoms-causes/syc-20370055#:~:text=Benign%20paroxysmal%20positional%20vertigo%20(BPPV)%20is%20one%20of%20the%20most,changes%20in%20your%20head’s%20position