Vertigo: A Manuever To Fix It
Dr. Carol Foster said she woke up one morning and everything started violently spinning. The room went like a spiral into space, making it feel as if she was “flying off the bed.”
“I knew what this was because this is my job,” said Dr. Foster, a professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Colorado (UC) School of Medicine, who has practiced in this field for 30 years.
Dr. Foster had vertigo, a condition suffered by millions of Americans that make you feel as if you—and the environment around you—are moving or spinning. The condition can also keep you off balance and place you at risk for falling. Vertigo is caused by different conditions linked to problems in the ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathways.
Some episodes of vertigo, particularly those that last for several days, can be so debilitating that they interfere with daily living activities. When cases of vertigo become severe and frequent, it may be necessary to visit an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist for treatment.
After developing a destructive inner ear disease, Dr. Foster said she learned that “the knowledge of vertigo disorders was generally very limited.” Because of her experience, Dr. Foster said she was inspired to start a practice limited to these conditions, and eventually developed a way to treat vertigo.
Common Types of Vertigo and Symptoms
While there are different types of vertigo, the most common are peripheral vertigo and central vertigo.
Peripheral vertigo is caused by a problem in the inner ear or the nerve connected to the inner ear, which are part of the vestibular system. The vestibular system provides the brain with information about balance, motion, and body position.
This condition is mostly due to benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which occurs when small pieces of bone-like calcium crystals break free and float inside fluid-filled tubes in the inner ear. The movement of the dislodged crystals and the fluid can make you feel dizzy.
Among the most common symptoms of peripheral vertigo are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of balance, which may cause falls
- Hearing loss in one or both ears
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Motion sickness
Central vertigo is caused by problems in part of the brain, such as the brainstem (located at the bottom part of the brain) or the cerebellum (located in the back of the brain). A stroke, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, certain drugs, such as anticonvulsants, aspirin, and alcohol, can cause central vertigo. The symptoms start out mild but persistent, and may cause gait instability and loss of coordination. A neurologist is often consulted to diagnose and treat central vertigo.
Symptoms of central vertigo are different than those of peripheral vertigo because the problems stem from the brain. These symptoms include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Double vision
- Eye movement problems
- Facial paralysis
- Slurred speech
- Weakness of the limbs
Generally, vertigo can develop suddenly and last only for a few minutes or it could last for several days.
Vertigo Relief With The Half-Somersault Maneuver
Dr. Foster, author of Overcoming Positional Vertigo, developed a simple treatment called the “Half-Somersault Maneuver” and created a video to demonstrate the following steps:
- 1. Start on you knees
- 2. Tip your head up towards the ceiling and hold that position for a few seconds. You may feel a little bit of spinning. This helps to start the particles moving.
- 3. Put your head down as if you’re going to do a somersault. Tuck your chin in a little bit so your head isn’t perfectly vertical.
- 4. If you’re treating your right ear, turn your head to face your right elbow. If you’re treating your left ear, turn your head to face your left elbow.
- 5. Wait for the spinning or dizziness to stop or count to 30 and then raise your head to back level, so that your head and your back are on the same level. Keep your head at the same 45-degree angle.
- 6. Wait 15 to 30 seconds again for the spinning to stop, then bring your head fully upright so that you end up kneeling again. In this position, the particles should leave the ear.
Sometimes it takes four or five repetitions to feel relief, Dr. Foster said. The repetitions should be repeated within 15 minute breaks.
Dr. Foster’s “Overcoming Positional Vertigo” video has since become a YouTube sensation, having racked up more than 8.3 million views since its debut on October 14, 2013.
Sue Rickers, a retired teacher, was among the millions who watched the video in hopes of finding relief from vertigo. In an interview with a local CBS News station in Denver, Rickers said she had suffered from vertigo for years and her episodes were so debilitating that she could not do anything until the episodes passed.
“I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t walk, I had to hold on to the wall,” she said. “It was very, very scary.”
After finding Dr. Foster’s video, Rickers decided to try the technique. To her amazement, it didn’t take long for the somersault maneuver to change her life.
“It worked,” she said. “It worked the very first time!”
According to Dr. Foster, patients who come to her for treatment and try the somersault maneuver usually do not return.
“I don’t have to see the same faces over and over again saying, ‘Oh, I need another treatment,’ because they’re capable of taking it on,” Dr. Foster said in her video. “It has allowed me to see more people who are new and have never heard of the treatment and teach it to them.”