Vertigo Treatment for Seniors

Seniors will experience dizziness, light headedness, and decreased balance much more that people under 50. Vertigo treatment for seniors is usually the Epley maneuver or the Brandt-Daroff exercise. The following blog post will demonstrate the Brandt-Daroff exercise.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a problem of the inner ear. Seniors with BPPV usually have brief episodes of dizziness or vertigo when changing the position of their heads. Generally they will report symptoms of either the room spinning or themselves spinning.

  1. Turn your head 45 degrees to the left.
  2. Lie down on your right side
  3. Sit up in the sitting position.
  4. Turn head right and lie down on your left side.
  5. Sit up in the sitting position.
Watch my instructional video

It is thought that BPPV is due to tiny crystals, called otoconia, that have gathered within the sensitive part of the inner ear. These crystals are made of calcium carbonate and are normally located in the utricle. Dizziness occurs when these crystals are dislodged form the membrane into the semicircular canals.

Exercise 1

Turn your head left 45 degrees. These exercises should be performed on a flat surface, without a pillow. Start sitting upright on the edge of a bed or couch, or the floor if able.

Exercise 2

Lie down on your right side. Your head should be at a 45 degree angle turned halfway between the flat surface and the ceiling Stay in the side-lying position for at least 30 seconds. If you are still dizzy, stay until the dizziness subsides or one minute, whichever is less. .

Exercise 3

Sit up in the sitting position. Then sit up and stay in the sitting position for 30 seconds.

Exercise 4

Turn head right and lie down on your left side. Turn your head 45 degrees to the right and lie down on your left side, again keeping your head turned halfway toward the ceiling for 30 seconds or until the dizziness subsides.

Exercise 5

Sit up in the sitting position. Return to position 1 for 30 seconds. This is one repetition. One set takes about 10 minutes to complete and should be performed each morning, mid-day and evening.

The Brandt-Daroff exercises should be performed for two weeks, three sets each day, for three weeks, two sets each day. In most individuals, complete relief from symptoms is obtained after 30 sets, or about 10 days. In approximately 30 percent of patients, BPPV will recur within one year. If BPPV recurs you may wish to add one 10 minute exercise to your daily routine.

The most common cause of BPPV in seniors is due to the natural degeneration of the vestibular system of the inner ear. BPPV becomes much more common with advancing age.

Other causes could be due to stroke, Meniere’s disease, viruses which may cause a neuritis. Many times no cause can be found at all. Activities that may cause dizziness include rolling over in bed, looking up at the ceiling when tipping head back,

BPPV may persist for a few weeks, then stop, then come back again. It is diagnosed by a clinician, usually with the Dix-Hallpike test or electonystagmaography, or ENG.

Vertigo treatment for seniors can be challenging, but with some professional help from a doctor or physical therapist, you will find some relief and a return to your normal life.

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Doug Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.