Benign positional vertigo: disabling “dizziness” from out of nowhere

The term this usually goes by in medical circles is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (quite a mouthful).  I will call it BPV for short.  I have treated this problem for years, but I never really appreciated just how disabling it was until I experienced a bout of it myself several months ago.  As a result of being forced to find answers to this condition so I could function in spite of it, I came up with a couple new tools to combat it, ones I doubt you will find anywhere else. I will get to that towards the end of this post.

I was sleeping in late one Saturday morning, and when I turned my head to begin to get up out of bed, suddenly the room began to violently spin.  It was horrible.  Moving my head just a few degrees caused the sickening spinning that threatened to cause me to vomit.  I couldn’t get out of bed, and my wife who had gotten up earlier and was downstairs, couldn’t hear me calling to her for help. I decided to try to pick up a shoe from beside the bed to bang it on the wall, but there was no way I could move enough to reach the shoe even if I moved very, very slowly!

My whole day was spent in bed fighting the spinning and nausea.  That night I hardly slept at all, since once I fell asleep, I invariably moved my head, and the violent spinning immediately awakened me again.  It would be weeks before I could move around again with ease.

Here are the links to a couple of resources that will give you a good understanding of what we know about this disease and what is usually done to manage it.  The first is an article from a Mayo Clinic web site that is a nice informative introduction:  A second article is from eMedicine, it is a little more in depth:

Now back to my story line.  During the second day of being disabled by my BPV symptoms, I decided to try the only medicine I had with me in the condo.  It was a medicine from the “triptan” class (Axert) that I sometimes use for my migraine headaches.  I reasoned that both migraines and BPV shared the characteristic of involving a sort of excessive neurological stimulation, so what the heck, it was worth a try.  Lo and behold, it was VERY helpful!  For about four hours after a dose of Axert I could at least move around and function fairly normally.  I found from experimenting, that several different triptan drugs helped me and several didn’t.  Since that time, I have tried this drug class with almost all my newly diagnosed BPV patients.  It is very helpful in about 50% of those I have tired it with.  It is what is called “off label” since obviously no clinical trials have not been conducted to verify its effectiveness in this condition, but it is a very safe drug class and we use medicines like this “off label” quite often, with much benefit.  You will need a physician’s prescription (in the US, at least), so you will probably need to provide a copy of this article to your personal physician if you want him or her to prescribe it.

I found a second intervention that was also quite helpful, one you will also not likely find anywhere else.  If you have read my article below, from July 1, 2011. called A simple, highly effective healing technique, you will know about the acupressure technique I use a lot in my office.   It wasn’t until a week after my BPV started that it occurred to me to try my acupressure technique for this problem.  I was headed back to my office to see my afternoon patients when it hit.  I sat down on a chair and was virtually stuck there, I couldn’t move, much like the first attack in the condo the previous weekend.  I had no medicine with me.  I tried tapping on acupoints around my head neck and shoulders until I found a spot right in front of my right ear that would stop the spinning with two or three taps every time!  What a relief!  I was able to resume my normal office work fairly easily. That spot continued to work throughout the next few weeks until the condition completely resolved.

For these kinds of problems, I find that helpful acupressure points like this can be found about 40 to 50% of the time when I look for them on my patients.  If you have learned this technique, and you know someone with BPV, have them give it a try.  It is safe, easy and free.

Of course, if you have any questions or want to make any comments, please do so below.  I will be putting more of these kinds of tips on this site from time to time, so if you want to watch for them, it is easy to subscribe to this blog by using the buttons to the right.


About Chuck Gebhardt

I am a physician specializing in internal medicine. I sub-specialize in nutritional medicine. I am very interested in all areas of healing research, not necessarily limited to traditional medicine topics.
This entry was posted in Healing tips and prevention strategies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Benign positional vertigo: disabling “dizziness” from out of nowhere

  1. Years ago I had such vertigo. It came and went. I could be fine, and then the next minute, I would have to clutch the wall to feel balanced. I haven’t had this difficulty in many many years, and I never want to have it again!

    • Thanks so much for your comment.

      I never would have thought that this kind of vertigo could be so bad until I experienced it myself. Makes me wonder how many things patients tell me that I don’t fully understand because I don’t have the experience to relate to it. I had the “opportunity” to experience being in an intensive care unit in Vietnam as a patient. I do not remember all that much about it, just little pieces of going in and out of awareness, but I think it has made me a MUCH better physician when treating my ICU patients.

      Your comment, Gloria, started me thinking of an ongoing problem I am working on in designing this blog. I put my comment here, instead of a personal email, because it may be of interest to other readers. I have been thinking my blog needs to be better focused and perhaps re-named. Focus appears to be important. It seems to me that people go to a blog and come back over time because they have an interest in what the blog addresses. To build a following, it would seem necessary to have some sort of consistency to meet specific reader’s interests and needs.

      I have a lot of unique insights and perspectives as a physician that I want to share with others. Some are medical insights about what works that many are not aware of, as in this blog topic. Some of it is about topics like how physicians can benefit from patients bringing in internet search info into the office to discuss during their office visit. Many aspects of healthcare reform and insurance problems also…….the potential list goes on and on and on. I am thinking of changing the blog name to something like: A Doctor Talks or Doc Blog or something potentially catchy like that. If I do decide to make these changes I will put an article up announcing the change first. At this point, I don’t think the title Consciousness, Spirituality and Healing is clear enough or focused enough to be a success long term.

      Input in these kinds of decisions is always greatly appreciated.


  2. manny says:

    I begin having vertigo on February at night I felt dizziness and also wanted to vomit and I started to sweat and began having blurry vision and I felt like the room was spinning and I wasn’t moving and I also felt like fainting and my body felt heavy I couldn’t walk or stand up and started to get big headaches and it lasted for an hour. When I woke up in the morning my life changed I wasn’t feeling the same anymore everyday I felt horrible

    • Manny, this sounds a lot like benign positional vertigo. To be sure, if you haven’t done so, I would advise you to get a medical evaluation. There are medical conditions that cam mimic BPV, and, although rare, some can be quite serious. My article is intended for people who have been diagnosed with BPV previously.

      Good luck,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s