HOME TREATMENTS OF BENIGN PAROXYSMAL POSITIONAL VERTIGO (BPPV)

Timothy C. Hain, MD • Page last modified: August 2, 2022

See also: dizzy-doc/BPPVMain BPPV page

These maneuvers are all for the most common type of BPPV, the "PC" or posterior canal variety. There are also home treatments for the rarer types of BPPV, but usually it is best to go to a health care provider for these as they are trickier. If you just want to "cut to the chase", click here.

Introduction

There are many methods of treating BPPV at home. These have many advantages over seeing a doctor, getting diagnosed, and then treated based on a rational procedure of diagnosis-- The home maneuvers are quick, they often work, and they are free.

There are several problems with the "do it yourself" method.

In our opinion, it is safer to have the first Epley performed in a doctors office where appropriate action can be taken in this eventuality.

That being said, here is the list of home maneuvers, ordered by our opinion as to which one is the best:

HOME EPLEY MANEUVER (the best home treatment maneuver)

Home Epley Maneuver
home crp
These are the positions for the left Home Epley. For the right, start on the right rather than left.

The Epley and/or Semont maneuvers can be done at home (Radke et al, 1999; Radke et al, 2004; Furman and Hain, 2004). We often recommend the home-Epley to our patients who have a clear diagnosis. This procedure seems to be even more effective than the in-office procedure, perhaps because it is repeated every night for a week. There are many home maneuvers. As there is only one way to move things around in a circle, they all boil down to the same head positions - -just different ways of getting there. The Epley maneuver is the best established.

The home Epley method (for the left side) is performed as shown on the figure to the right. The maneuver for the right side is just the mirror image.

One stays in each of the supine (lying down) positions for 30 seconds, and in the sitting upright position (top) for 1 minute. Thus, once cycle takes 2 1/2 minutes. Typically 3 cycles are performed just after waking up in the morning. It is best to do them in the morning rather than in the morning or midday, as if the debris is successfully moved, then it has all day to dissolve. Still if the maneuver makes you unable to drive, then best do it at night.

We comment on youtube videos of this maneuver here. Some of them are a little sketchy but the "vestibular today" video is pretty good..


HOME SEMONT MANEUVER (middle efficacy)

Radke et al (2004) also studied the home Semont maneuver, using a similar procedure as the home-Epley. They reported that the home-Semont was not as effective as the home-Epley, because it was too difficult to learn. The difference was quite remarkable: 95% for the Epley vs. 58% for the Semont. As the positions of the head are almost identical to the home-Epley, it should be equivalent. While we occasionally suggest it to patients, this is not one to learn from a web-page.

The "Foster" or half somersault maneuver.

This is a logical maneuver (analyzed here), and can be used instead of the Epley or Semont. It may be a little more dangerous as it is done while crouching, rather than lying on the back as in the Epley. As there is no real need for head extension, it might be better for persons with stiff necks.

BRANDT-DAROFF EXERCISES (The first home treatment described for PC BPPV, but not the best)

Brandt-Daroff Exercises for BPPV

Click here for a low bandwidth animation

The Brandt-Daroff Exercises are a home method of treating BPPV, usually used when the side of BPPV is unclear. It was proposed many years ago, when we didn't understand the mechanism of BPPV (Brandt and Daroff, 1980). Their use has been declining in recent years, as the home Epley maneuver (see below) is considerably more effective. They succeed in 95% of cases but are more arduous than the office treatments. We occasionally still suggest them for patients with atypical BPPV.

These exercises also may take longer than the other maneuvers -- the response rate at one week is only about 25% (Radke et al, 1999). These exercises are performed in three sets per day for two weeks. In each set, one performs the maneuver as shown on the right five times.

1 repetition = maneuver done to each side in turn (takes 2 minutes)

Suggested Schedule for Brandt-Daroff exercises
Time Exercise Duration
Morning 5 repetitions 10 minutes
Noon 5 repetitions 10 minutes
Evening 5 repetitions 10 minutes

Start sitting upright (position 1). Then move into the side-lying position (position 2), with the head angled upward about halfway. An easy way to remember this is to imagine someone standing about 6 feet in front of you, and just keep looking at their head at all times. Stay in the side-lying position for 30 seconds, or until the dizziness subsides if this is longer, then go back to the sitting position (position 3). Stay there for 30 seconds, and then go to the opposite side (position 4) and follow the same routine.

These exercises should be performed for two weeks, three times per day, or for three weeks, twice per day. This adds up to 42 sets in total. In most persons, 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. Unfortunately, daily exercises are not effective in preventing recurrence (Helminski and Hain, 2008). The Brandt-Daroff exercises as well as the Semont and Epley maneuvers are compared in an article by Brandt (1994), listed in the reference section.

When performing the Brandt-Daroff maneuver, caution is advised should neurological symptoms (i.e. weakness, numbness, visual changes other than vertigo) occur. Occasionally such symptoms are caused by compression of the vertebral arteries (Sakaguchi et al, 2003). In this situation we advise not proceeding with the exercises and consulting ones physician. It is also best to stop if one develops neck pain.

Multicanal BPPV (usually mild) often is a consequence of using the Brandt-Daroff exercises. This is probably because one does it over and over, and because the geometry is not very efficient. Lots of opportunities for rocks to go into the wrong place.

Other resources:

A Modest Proposal -- Another maneuver anyone ?

There seems to be considerable willingness in the literature to propose new maneuvers, often named after their inventor, that are simple variants of older maneuvers. Well -- there are still a few maneuvers left to adapt (:

If one is willing to engage in athletic positions as in the half-somersault procedure, why not just take things to the logical extreme and do a complete backward sumersault in the plane of the affected canal, starting from upright (A below), then to the home-Epley bottom position above (B below), then into the Foster position C -- midway between B and C below, and then follow through to position C below (which is also position D of the Foster and home Epley), and then finally to upright again. Stopping for 30 seconds in each position. A full circle. This is a home version of the Lempert 360 rotation described in 1997.

I propose naming it "The full circle maneuver". Or maybe the full backwards sumersault. We do not recommend that people try this maneuver out -- as there are some practical issues (i.e. getting from position B to C) and we would not want anyone to hurt themselves. But it should work just as well as the others, as the positions of the head are the same. And thats the only thing that matters when one considers the efficiency of these maneuvers.

360 degree roll treatment
Full circle
Illustration of the 360 rotation of the left posterior semicircular canal, From Lempert et al, 1997.

References