Why you be trippin’? No really. Physically, why is it that the world is spinning and your body can’t keep up? Vertigo is similar to riding the loop de loop roller coaster, unable to get off. While on the loops there’s a sense of giddiness and excitement as the whirling loss of body awareness attacks your sensory system. Some people experience these symptoms in the absence of a roller coaster but in the presence of inner ear dysfunction. This whirling sensation is distinguished from dizziness, which is another topic that warrants a separate discussion (see causes of vertigo below).
The inner ear houses our vestibular system (see picture), which is a complex roller coaster ride of loop de loops, fluid, crystals, and membranes precisely calibrated, working in conjunction with body and brain perceptions to keep us on our feet in the presence of uncertain terrain. The vestibular system keeps our body and brain in check with gravity. Life is filled with uncertain terrain that challenges our balance and vestibular system. Examples include: walking over gravel, jumping on a trampoline, walking on sand or cushioned carpet, maneuvering in bed, and walking through crowds.
Causes of vertigo include:
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV): Episodic vertigo specifically triggered by positional change. This particular cause is often adequately treated through a specific physical therapy intervention called the Epley Maneuver.
Meniere’s Disease: Large collection of fluid (endolymph) in the ear, causes largely unknown.
Vestibular neuritis: Inner ear infection.
Head Injuries and Migraines: Any sort of trauma that may have caused a head injury, also history of migraines.
Mystery Illness: Underlying, possibly medically undetectable, viral load compromising the immune system.
In my experience, aside from BPPV for which the Epley Maneuver is used, medical treatment often offers little to no relief. Often a patient will simply heal naturally, and other times patients will learn to live with the symptoms.
THERE IS HOPE! When I see no glimmer of hope in my patients, we must start to discuss alternative treatments and solutions to vertigo. Luckily, there are many avenues we can explore.
Diet: It is severely underestimated by the general public the vast impact our diet has on EVERYTHING. Try a cleanse, eat produce every meal, do something drastic. Eliminate dairy and gluten. Keep a diary of your symptoms compared to what you ate. The cure may reside on your plate.
Environment: Eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides. Stop wearing perfume and using heavily scented cleaning and beauty products.
Social support: A good social network keeps your feet on the ground. Living an isolated lifestyle is similar to floating in outer space. There is no connectedness, and the body responds accordingly. Seek out a support group, yoga or meditation group, church group, or volunteer.
Relationships: Relationships can push you both physically and emotionally in directions you’d rather not go creating a sense of vertigo.
Spirituality: Believing is something greater than yourself, your path toward the best version of yourself. Without this, our physical body is untethered and lost.
Emotions: Are you reacting to the world from a place of fear? Fear creates stress and anxiety and translates to ischemia (a lack of blood flow), which can initiate symptoms. Meditation and decluttering will help here.
Habituation: The vestibular system will habituate, or normalize. The key here is empowerment. Once the symptoms of vertigo are aggravated, stay in that position, do not move, keep your eyes open and focus on a target until the symptoms resolve. Avoidance of the situations that cause vertigo, give it power and allows it to take over.
11 Easy Home Remedies for the Treatment of Vertigo. http://www.homeremedyshop.com
Netter, FH. Atlas of Human Anatomy: 3rd edition. Icon Learning Systems, Teterboro, NJ. Pg 87.
Vestibular Disorders Association. www.vestibular.org
William, A. Medical Medium: Secrets behind Mystery and Chronic Illness.