So what does it feel like to have BPPV?

If you have had BPPV you will never forget what it feels like. But it is hard to explain to someone else. Many people report spinning: “Like falling off a building”, like “a roller coaster ride but worse”, like “my head was spinning”.

To be honest, as someone who has had BPPV myself, it was really scary for the first few minutes. The irony that I had BPPV was not lost on me. However, until I confirmed for myself that I did have BPPV I was a little worried that maybe I was having a stroke or an aneurysm or something of the like.

Right after I woke up I rolled to the left to get out of bed and it literally felt like the bed got up and smacked me in the side of the held. What had actually happened, of course, was that I had fallen back down onto the bed, but it sure didn’t’ feel like that. Following the initial shock I just held onto the sheets, hoping it would end. I am not sure what I said but I had called my wife in to take a look at me. From her standpoint all she could see was a man half out of bed holding on to the comforter for dear life. After what seemed like ages, but was perhaps 30 seconds, things slowed down, the ride ended and I could see straight again.

Afterwards I felt quite nauseous but didn’t need to throw up. I was, however, a bit afraid to move. Nevertheless, my curiosity got the better of me and lied back down on the bed and I rolled to the left again. Not surprisingly the ride started all over again. This time my wife was ready to look in my eyes and sure enough I had nystagmus, which confirmed the diagnosis of BPPV. In hind sight, perhaps I should have waited longer to conduct my experiment as following the second episode I spent the rest of the morning near the toilet bowl.

Once I had fully recovered and was brave enough to perform my own Epley maneuver I got ahold of the treatment device, put it on, and went through the maneuvers. Of course you do get dizzy during the treatment maneuver but ideally it will be the last time you will spinning. The maneuver went by with tolerable vertigo but towards the end I felt something odd. From a medical standpoint there is a second phase of nystagmus, when you roll up onto your opposite shoulder, just as the particles drop out of the posterior semi-circular canal and back into the utricle of the vestibular apparatus. Perhaps I imagined it, but I am sure I could feel a drop, or a change, or something that was different all of a sudden. I was relieved but not really back to normal. I tried to make myself dizzy again but couldn’t – success – sort of. I was left feeling off balance, wondering if it had really worked or if something else was going on. This feeling lasted a good two weeks. I was never spinning again since that first day (as I treated myself immediately) but I was surprised how long it took to get back to normal and for the off balance feeling to go away. That was about 6 months ago – no more episodes – yet.

Everyone describes their own symptoms differently – feel free to comment on yours below.

6 Responses

  1. Clearwater Clinical
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    It depends on what you mean by dizziness – (spinning lasting seconds is BPPV). Heavy head feeling is pretty hard to diagnose. I would recommend speaking with your primary care physician for a complete history and physical to get a proper diagnosis.

  2. Ted
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    Hi ,
    I have suffered daily dizziness , heavy head daily for 2.5years. is this BPPV as well?

  3. Clearwater Clinical
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    Interesting. BPPV is recurrent and often sticks around for weeks to months without treatment. Sometimes it takes a few treatments to move all the crystals so I agree go back and see if another therapy session works.

  4. Clearwater Clinical
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    Just a quick note – migraines can present with vertigo. Do a search on MAV or Migraine Associated Vertigo. There is lots of information out there. You may find that treating your migraines gets rid of your vertigo. Talk to your doctor about it.

  5. David
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    As I rolled out of bed in a dark room I had an “E ticket ride”. Didn’t know which end was up. Somehow landed back on the bed. Didn’t have a clue what was going on. Dealt with it for 5-6 days then went to the doctor. He had HPPV in the past and quickly related to my experience. Had the tilted head procedure and felt better, however, 5 days after the therapy I still feel dizzy and walk like a drunk in the morning. Going back to therapy today to see if the “stone” is still rolling around in my ear canal. I hope it’s really HPPV and not some underlying catastrophe.

  6. Eidolon
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    my vertigo is randomly bad. Like I used to live in the high mountains, and Id get vertigo literlaly every time I stood up. And that didnt bother me one bit! Then I moved out of the montains…and suddenly develoepd a panic disorder (ongoing.) it was then that my vertigo came back.

    Same sensations as before. Same duration as before – which is probably why i havent ever ended up at the ER from the panic – and yet for some reason it terrifies me now! Sometimes its caused by strange things. like scratching my head…that doesnt cause it. its moving my hand away that causes it. Thats just silly.

    I hate vertigo. Oh and now I have migraines too. I hate migraines.

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