The spinning sensation and dizziness you get from vertigo can limit your activities and make you feel sick. Depending on the cause, though, some simple maneuvers you can do at home might bring relief.
The most common type of this condition is BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). It happens when small crystals of calcium get loose in your inner ear. You may feel it when you're getting in or out of bed, or tilting your head up. People over age 60 are more likely to get BPPV. It’s also the easiest type of vertigo to treat.
Before you try to treat it yourself, see your doctor. If you have vertigo, you'll need to know what type it is and which ear has the problem. To determine affected side:
- Sit on a bed so that if you lie down, your head hangs slightly over the end of the bed.
- Turn your head to the right and lie back quickly.
- Wait 1 minute.
- If you feel dizzy, then the right ear is your affected ear.
- If no dizziness occurs, sit up.
- Wait 1 minute.
- Turn your head to the left and lie back quickly.
- Wait 1 minute.
- If you feel dizzy, then the left ear is your affected ear.
If you have BPPV, certain actions can move the calcium crystals that cause the problem out of your ear canal. That should bring relief.
Your doctor or a therapist can show you how to do these moves.
If your vertigo comes from your left ear and side:
- Sit on the edge of your bed. Turn your head 45 degrees to the left (not as far as your left shoulder). Place a pillow under you so when you lie down, it rests between your shoulders rather than under your head.
- Quickly lie down on your back, with your head on the bed (still at the 45-degree angle). The pillow should be under your shoulders. Wait 30 seconds (for any vertigo to stop).
- Turn your head halfway (90 degrees) to the right without raising it. Wait 30 seconds.
- Turn your head and body on its side to the right, so you're looking at the floor. Wait 30 seconds.
- Slowly sit up, but remain on the bed a few minutes.
- If the vertigo comes from your right ear, reverse these instructions. Sit on your bed, turn your head 45 degrees to the right, and so on.
Do these movements three times before going to bed each night, until you've gone 24 hours without dizziness.
This exercise is for dizziness from the left ear and side:
- Sit on the edge of your bed. Turn your head 45 degrees to the right.
- Quickly lie down on your left side. Stay there for 30 seconds.
- Quickly move to lie down on the opposite end of your bed. Don't change the direction of your head. Keep it at a 45-degree angle and lie for 30 seconds. Look at the floor.
- Return slowly to sitting and wait a few minutes.
- Reverse these moves for the right ear.
Again, do these moves three times a day until you go 24 hours without vertigo.
Half-Somersault or Foster Maneuver
Some people find this maneuver easier to do:
- Kneel down and look up at the ceiling for a few seconds.
- Touch the floor with your head, tucking your chin so your head goes toward your knees. Wait for any vertigo to stop (about 30 seconds).
- Turn your head in the direction of your affected ear (i.e. if you feel dizzy on your left side, turn to face your left elbow). Wait 30 seconds.
- Quickly raise your head so it's level with your back while you're on all fours. Keep your head at that 45-degree angle. Wait 30 seconds.
- Quickly raise your head so it's fully upright, but keep your head turned to the shoulder of the side you're working on. Then slowly stand up.
You may have to repeat this a few times for relief. After the first round, rest 15 minutes before trying a second time.
Here’s what you need to do for this exercise:
- Start in an upright, seated position on your bed.
- Tilt your head around a 45-degree angle away from the side causing your vertigo. Move into the lying position on one side with your nose pointed up.
- Stay in this position for about 30 seconds or until the vertigo eases off, whichever is longer. Then move back to the seated position.
- Repeat on the other side.
You should do these movements from three to five times in a session. You should have three sessions a day for up to 2 weeks, or until the vertigo is gone for 2 days.
More Exercises for Vertigo
Repetitive movements can help your brain and body overcome the confusing signals of vertigo. They can also help you manage the sudden start of dizziness and motion sensations.
When you begin these exercises for vertigo, start slowly and understand that initial reactions may make you feel worse. Make sure that you complete these exercises individually, taking breaks between each one. Speak with your doctor before beginning any of these exercises, and let them know if your vertigo symptoms become more serious or if you have any new symptoms.
Marching in Place Exercise
Marching in place can help you with balance while standing, and it acts as a stepping stone for more advanced movements.
Step 1: Stand near a wall or corner, or place a chair nearby. Place your arms by your side.
Step 2: Lift your right knee, followed by your left knee as you march. Try to raise your knees as high as comfort allows.
Step 3: March in place 20 times.
Repeat this exercise two times a day times, and try to extend each set to 30 marching steps.
Turning in Place Exercise
Turning in place is a more advanced exercise than marching in place. Make sure you have a chair or sturdy walker nearby in case you feel dizzy.
Step 1: Stand straight with your arms at your sides.
Step 2: Slowly turn left in a half-circle, equal to 180 degrees.
Step 3: Stop moving and stand motionless for 10 to 15 seconds.
Step 4: Slowly turn right in a half-circle. Stand still for 10 to 15 seconds.
Repeat this exercise five times. As you complete each round, favor moving in the direction that makes you feel dizzier.
When completing the standing exercises for vertigo, stand near a wall or handrail, or set up a chair, walker, or other personal assistance device in case you lose your balance. If you have a higher risk of falling, ask someone to stand close by as you work on these exercises.
For the rest of the day after doing any of these exercises, try not to tilt your head too far up or down. If you don't feel better after a week of trying these moves, talk to your doctor again, and ask them what they want you to do next.
You might not be doing the exercises right, or something else might be the cause of your dizziness.