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: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vertigo/DS00534. A second article is from eMedicine, it is a little more in depth: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/884261-overview.
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.