Ever feel like the world around you was suddenly spinning, that you couldn’t manage to balance yourself or that you had unexplained ringing in your ears along with changes in your eyesight? If so, you might have experienced vertigo, a symptom that results from various types of “balance disorders,” usually caused by abnormal changes in the inner ears.
Vertigo is not actually a disorder or medical condition — rather it’s the cluster of symptoms caused by other disorders, and chances are you or someone you know has experienced it. In fact, research shows that nearly 40 percent of all people over the age of 40 will experience vertigo at least once in their lifetimes. (1)
If all of this sounds familiar to you, you’re probably wondering how to get rid of vertigo. Treating vertigo involves repairing the inner ear by identifying the damage’s underlying cause, plus preventing it from occurring again by making certain lifestyle changes.
What Is Vertigo?
There have been over a dozen different disorders identified that cause balance dysfunctions. (2) Balance is defined as “the ability to maintain the body’s center of mass over its base of support.” (3) Normally, various systems within the body are at play to help us remain balanced, keep ourselves upright when moving and identify orientation with respect to our surroundings.
Our ability to stay balanced is maintained by several systems, including: the sensorimotor control system (which controls our senses, such as our sight and hearing), the proprioception system (responsible for touch) and the vestibular system (helps us move without falling over). The inner ears obviously help us see, but they’re also an important part of the vestibular system, which allows us to identify where we are in space.
Vertigo develops when delicate parts of the ears no longer accurately send information to the brain about your position. This can occur for various reasons, including ear infections, a blow to the head, injuries, inflammation or simply aging. The good news is I have some secrets on how to get rid of vertigo.
How to Ged Rid of Vertigo
1. Physical Therapy
For people who experience recurring vertigo, one type of helpful treatment is vestibular rehabilitation, a form of physical therapy that addresses the vestibular organs. The vestibular system constantly sends information to the brain in the form of nerve impulses from special nerve endings called sensory receptors, so therapy can retrain these organs to work with our other senses to re-establish a sense of balance. (4) Vestibular rehab can help promote central nervous system compensation for inner-ear problems causing loss of balance.
Inactivity has also been linked to worsened vertigo, so additionally, physical therapy treatments work on increasing strength, range of motion, flexibility and movement, while preventing muscle fatigue and soreness. A vestibular rehab program might include various exercises for: building better hand-eye coordination, improving balance, strengthening joints and muscles, and improving fitness and endurance. These exercises can also help ease pain and allow you to rest better if you usually find you can’t sleep comfortably.
2. Head Maneuvers (“Canalith Repositioning Procedure,” or CRP)
Certain types of exercises and head adjustments can help move ear rocks (calcium deposits) out of the area in the ears where they cause problems. This technique is recommended by the American Academy of Neurology, which offers a series of specific head and body movements for clearing the canals of the inner ear chambers. CRP is very effective with an approximate cure rate of 80 percent for people who suffer from BPPV-type vertigo. It’s also usually helpful for preventing vertigo from reoccuring. (5)
How does it work exactly? When the head moves a certain way, the canaliths within the canals travel back to their correct location in the utricle, where they usually dissolve, break up and stop causing dizziness. The canalith repositioning procedures usually involve holding four positions for about 30 to 45 seconds each or as long as symptoms remain. Then you hold your head in a fixed position for about 20 seconds after symptoms go away.
The procedures can be done in a doctor’s office quickly and painlessly. (6) If it’s your first time dealing with vertigo and trying head maneuvers to resolve your symptoms, it’s a good idea to meet with a doctor who can show you how to properly perform them.
3. Reduce Stress
Stress and inflammation both seem to raise the risks for vertigo. (7) Stress is capable of reducing immunity, making it more likely that you’ll experience ear infections, swelling and other problems related to the vestibular system. The more stressed you are, the less likely you are to exercise regularly and get good sleep — both of which you really need if you’re prone to developing vertigo! That’s why chronic stress is so dangerous.
Try natural stress relievers like exercising, yoga, meditation, taking warm baths, using essential oils and spending more time outdoors.
4. A Healthy Diet and Staying Hydrated
Some doctors prescribe medications to reduce inflammation or infections within the ears, but ultimately this doesn’t help solve the problem long term for some people. A crucial aspect to limiting inflammation and preventing dehydration is eating a nutrient-rich diet.
Anti-inflammatory foods can help manage blood pressure levels and are usually hydrating, which keeps you protected from dehydration, lowering your risk for vertigo. Foods to include in your diet often include: vegetables (especially those high in blood pressure-lowering potassium, such as leafy greens), fresh fruit (like bananas and avocado), healthy sources of fats (like wild fish, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil) and clean sources of lean protein (grass-fed meat, cage-free eggs and pasture-raised poultry, for example).
In addition, drink enough water each day, and lower your intake of caffeine and alcohol if you feel dizzy often. Even mild dehydration can cause dizziness and changes in blood pressure that can make you feel off-balance and nauseous.
5. Be Active but Get Enough Rest Too
People who experience a lack of sleep, tossing and turning, and inactivity are more likely to suffer from vertigo. Make it a priority to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night, so you feel energized enough to move around enough, get regular exercise and experience proper muscle recovery. Exercise is also beneficial for lowering blood pressure levels and controlling stress.
To reduce dizziness once you wake up, try to sleep with your head slightly raised on two or more pillows. Also make sure to get up slowly when getting out of bed, not to walk far in the dark, which can cause you to fall, and possibly even sit on the edge of the bed for a minute before getting fully up so your head and ears can get accustomed to a new position.
6. Talk to Your Doctor About Other Causes of Dizziness
Vertigo isn’t the only reason you might feel dizzy, so if symptoms seem to keep coming back, it’s a good idea to get a blood test done and speak with your doctor. Vitamin B12 deficiency, low blood pressure, anemic symptoms, heart complications and even anxiety can all contribute to dizziness, so rule these out before assuming that vertigo is to blame. Some medications can also make vertigo or dizziness worse, including blood pressure medications, anti-anxiety drugs and taking high amounts of supplements.
While working on fixing vertigo and preventing it from returning, keep in mind that you might still have episodes of feeling very dizzy. Whenever symptoms reappear, make sure you safely sit down, rest and talk to your doctor. Here are some helpful tips for managing symptoms while they’re still going on:
- Don’t do anything that’s dangerous while you lack balance, such as driving or exercising, which can cause you to fall and become injured.
- Sit down or lay down and rest immediately when you feel dizzy.
- Be careful about getting up suddenly in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and always use good lighting if you do get up from bed when it’s dark.
- Try talking to your doctor about using a cane to help you re-establish balance.
Common Vertigo Symptoms
Some common vertigo symptoms include: (8)
- feeling dizzy, such as having a spinning sensation
- feeling like you’re tilting or going to tumble over (as if you’re being pulled in one direction)
- swaying and being off-balance when moving or walking
- feeling nauseous, occasionally vomiting
- losing your hearing or having ringing in the ears
- increased perspiration
- having abnormal eye movements, including jerking or the eye moving toward the effected ear (called nystagmus)
- occasionally feeling like you’re going to faint or actually fainting
How long does vertigo last? Vertigo symptoms can come and go, lasting anywhere between several minutes to several days. Some people experience much more drastic symptoms than others, since it all depends on factors like how damaged the inner ear has become or how much fluid has accumulated in the ear where it shouldn’t have.
In some cases, vertigo will go away all on its own, since the body and senses have ways of adapting to changes in the ear. However, it might also return without any warning, reappearing from time to time, which can cause you a lot of hassle. That’s why it’s important to remember these tips on how to get rid of vertigo.
What Causes Vertigo?
While vertigo is usually brought on by changing the position of your head, there are also normally underlying causes contributing to the condition. Ever experience a sudden feeling of light-headedness when getting out of bed, standing up, exercising or learning of some sort of traumatic news? All of these are common times to experience vertigo symptoms because of how they affect inflammation, blood pressure and our sensory organs.
Three potential causes for vertigo include a sudden drop in blood pressure, high amounts of stress causing you to miss sleep or being dehydrated. Each of these can cause changes in the ears that make you feel off-balance, dizzy and shaky, especially when you stand up suddenly or move around. (9) Vertigo is also more common in people over 50 years old and twice as common in women than in men. (10, 11)
Vertigo is classified into several different categories, depending on what the underlying cause of the ear damage is. Previously, researchers believed that all cases of vertigo were caused by similar injuries, but today we know that vertigo can be the result of more than one type of ear problem — including chronic ear infections or inflammation that worsens balance disorders. The three main types of vertigo include: BPPV, Meniere’s disease, and vestibular neuritis (also called labyrinthitis).
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the leading cause of vertigo that results in inner-ear problems that lead to dizziness. Its symptoms include repeated episodes of positional vertigo, meaning spinning sensations caused by changes in the position of the head.
The underlying cause of BPPV is a dislodging of calcium crystals within the ear (called otoconia or sometimes “ear rocks”), which lie in the part of the ear called the labyrinth. Ear rocks affect the vestibular system, which includes three loop-shaped structures (semicircular canals) that contain fluid and fine, hair-like sensors that monitor movements of your head. (12)
Calcium crystals (sometimes called canaliths) can become dislodged from their correct position within the part of the ear called the utricle, then migrate into one of the semicircular canals within the ear where they don’t belong. This creates trouble with balance and disorientation because based on the amount of fluids within the inner ear, nerves in the ears send signals to the brain about how the head and body are positioned relative to gravity. Very small openings within the inner ear hold fluid that moves delicately through tiny canals, sending messages elsewhere about how you’re positioned relative to the earth (upright, sideways, bent over, etc.), which is what normally keeps you balanced.
When the position of the head is moved, it becomes oriented to gravity differently, causing fluids to move. Movement of the head, especially when it’s forceful or sudden, can shift the position of ear rocks and cause abnormal fluid (endolymph) accumulation. Ear rocks can then stimulate sensitive nerve hairs in the ears and send false signals to the brain.
Vertigo caused by BPPV can be brought on by any type of action that changes how the head is positioned, including simple movements like:
- tilting the head to one side
- rolling over onto one side while sleeping (stress and lack of sleep have also been tied to BPPV development and seem to make existing cases of vertigo even worse, possibly because this causes tossing and turning in bed)
- looking up or down
- car accidents that cause fast jerks in the head
This is a rare and serious inner-ear disorder that develops after fluid accumulates in the inner ear abnormally, causing pressure levels to change within the ear. Along with the other common symptoms of vertigo like dizziness, Meniere’s disease can cause ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or even hearing loss.
This type of vertigo is sub-classified depending on which semicircular canal in the ear is affected, since fluid in the posterior canal and the lateral canal can both be the cause. It’s much rarer than BPPV, with estimates showing that about 0.2 percent of the population between the ages of 40 and 60 suffers from Meniere’s disease.
Vestibular Neuritis or Labyrinthitis:
Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis vertigo is caused by ear infections or viruses that attack the inner ear. Chronic infections within the ear contribute to inflammation, which damages nerves that are responsible for communicating with the brain/body about balance and orientation.
Aside from the three conditions mentioned above, vertigo can sometimes be triggered by events, such as:
- head or neck injuries (which usually require surgery to fix the inner ear)
- a stroke or brain tumor
- damage within the ears caused by medications
- migraines or strong headaches
- 40 percent of people over 40 years old experience vertigo at some point that’s severe enough to speak with a doctor (that’s estimated to be around 125 million people).
- Researchers have identified more than 12 different balance disorders which can cause vertigo.
- The three main types of vertigo include: BPPV, Meniere’s disease and vestibular neuritis.
- BPPV is the No. 1 cause of inner-ear-related balance disorders like vertigo. BPPV affects around 2 percent of the population every year.
- A rare form of vertigo is caused by Meniere’s disease, which only affects about 0.2 percent of the population between ages 40–60.
- Women are twice as likely as men to develop vertigo for reasons that aren’t well understood.
- 80 percent of people with BPPV vertigo experience relief after trying head maneuvers that break up inner ear rocks.
- Following an episode of vertigo, 50 percent of patients usually experience the problem again within five years.
Takeaways on How to Get Rid of Vertigo
- Vertigo is a symptom that results from various types of “balance disorders,” usually caused by abnormal changes in the inner ears.
- Vertigo is not actually a disorder or medical condition, just a cluster of symptoms.
- Nearly 40 percent of all people over the age of 40 will experience vertigo at least once in their lifetimes.
- Vertigo develops when delicate parts of the ears no longer accurately send information to the brain about your position.
- Here are six secrets for how to get rid of vertigo: physical therapy, head maneuvers (canalith repositioning procedure), reduce stress, eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated, be active but get enough rest as well, and talk to your doctor about other causes of dizziness.