If you experience ongoing bouts of vertigo, no matter what the cause, you have a greater risk of losing your balance and falling. Doing balance exercises may reduce your risk of falling and hurting yourself and others and improve your self-confidence and self-esteem. You can do exercises at home or with a certified balance and fall prevention physical therapist under the direction of a hearing and balance specialist to help your body get used to the confusing signals that cause your vertigo. Within a few days to weeks of consistently doing balance exercises, you may notice a decline in vertigo symptoms.
Exercises for vertigo often sound very simple. But depending on how bad your vertigo is, you may find them difficult to do. They generally consist of exercises that practice maintaining balance during activities and moving the head to avoid common triggers of vertigo.
1. The Brandt-Daroff Exercise for Vertigo
The Brandt-Daroff exercise is one of several exercises intended to speed up the compensation process and end the symptoms of vertigo. It often is prescribed for people with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and sometimes for labyrinthitis. These exercises will not cure these conditions, but over time they can reduce symptoms of vertigo.
To do the Brandt-Daroff exercise:
- Start in an upright, seated position.
- Move into the lying position on one side with your nose pointed up at about a 45-degree angle.
- Remain in this position for about 30 seconds (or until the vertigo subsides, whichever is longer), then move back to the seated position.
- Repeat on the other side.
People using this exercise usually are instructed to do 20 repetitions of the exercise at least twice a day.
Symptoms sometimes suddenly go away during an exercise period. More often, improvement occurs gradually over a period of weeks or months. These exercises can help your body get used to the confusing signals that are causing your vertigo. This may help you get over your vertigo sooner.
2. The Epley Maneuver
The Epley and Semont maneuvers are exercises used to treat benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). They are done with the assistance of a doctor or physical therapist. A single 10- to 15-minute session usually is all that is needed. When your head is firmly moved into different positions, the calcium crystal (canalith) debris causing vertigo will slip out of the semicircular canal into an area of the inner ear where it will no longer cause symptoms. Two maneuvers have been used successfully: the Epley maneuver and the Semont maneuver.
To perform this maneuver:
- You are seated, and the doctor turns your head 45 degrees horizontally toward the affected ear. You should hold the doctor’s arms for support.
- The doctor tilts you backward to a horizontal position with your head kept in place at a 45-degree turn, hanging. An attack of vertigo is likely as the debris moves toward the apex of the canal. You are held in this position until the vertigo stops, usually within a minute.
- The doctor turns your head 90 degrees toward the unaffected ear. The doctor then rolls you onto the side of the unaffected ear, so that you are now looking at the floor. The debris should move in the canal again, possibly provoking another attack of vertigo. You should remain in this position until the vertigo stops, usually within a minute.
- The doctor helps you back to a seated position.
3. The Semont Maneuver
To perform this exercise:
- You are seated, and the doctor turns your head 45 degrees horizontally toward the unaffected ear.
- The doctor tilts you 105 degrees so that you are lying on the side of the affected ear with your head hanging and your nose pointed upward. You remain in this position for 3 minutes. The debris should move to the apex of the canal.
- The doctor then moves you quickly through the seated position, holding your head in place, until you are lying on the side of the unaffected ear with your nose pointed to the ground. You remain in this position for 3 minutes. The debris should move toward the exit of the canal.
- The doctor then slowly moves you back to the seated position. The debris should fall into the utricle of the canal, where it will not cause vertigo.
Sometimes these maneuvers are done while you wear a vibrating headband. But the vibration may not help any more than the maneuver alone.
The Epley and Semont maneuvers are more effective than other treatments for BPPV, for example, the Brandt-Daroff exercise. Exercises do not treat the cause of BPPV. They help speed up compensation by the brain. When the Epley and Semont maneuvers work, they can relieve symptoms of vertigo quickly. If the Epley and Semont maneuvers don’t work to relieve your symptoms of vertigo, you may not have the most common type of BPPV. Or you may not have BPPV at all.
The Epley and Semont maneuvers may improve or cure benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) with only one treatment. Some people need multiple treatments.
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