Vertigo Treatment at Home: How to Stop the Spins

Vertigo is a symptom of various health concerns. Thus, vertigo treatment should specifically tackle the root cause of a particular condition.

Woman sitting against a wall while supporting her forehead with her right hand

Vertigo is a symptom and not a medical condition. Simply put, it’s a sensation that makes you feel as if your surroundings are moving or spinning, and it can be broken down into two types – central and peripheral vertigo. Hence, vertigo treatment will relate to distinct factors, including its root cause.

Women and people over 65 are more likely to face episodes of vertigo. Generally, these can develop suddenly and lasts for a few seconds or longer. Though, people with severe vertigo may experience the sensation for days, thus impairing their ability to live life. Here are the causes of this symptom and the steps a person can take to stay grounded.

Woman stretching her right hand out to adjust the position of her bedside lamp as she lies in bed
A shift in head position can prompt a benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) attack.

Understanding the Differences Between Central and Peripheral Vertigo 

Central vertigo is associated with problems involving the cerebellum or brain stem. These include: 

  • A stroke 
  • A vestibular migraine 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Blood vessel disease 
  • Cerebrovascular disease 
  • Cancerous or non-cancerous brain tumours 
  • The use of medications like anticonvulsants such as phenytoin and Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants such as barbiturate

Disorders of the inner ear, meanwhile, can give rise to peripheral vertigo. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) or peripheral vertigo is a problem that arises when there’s a change in the position of the head. People with BPPV often sustain attacks when they’re lying down, sitting up or turning over in bed. Meniere’s disease, on the other hand, stirs up a build-up of fluid in the ear and subsequently leads to vertigo. 

Medications like aminoglycoside antibiotics, cisplatin and diuretics are damaging to the structure of the inner ear. Also, a head injury, and pressure on the vestibular nerve can also increase your risk of the symptom.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), vertigo is linked to degeneration or an imbalance of Liver, Spleen and Kidney function. “Depression can lead to qi (vital energy) Stagnation, which converts into Fire and stirs up Wind yang (active energy).

This can provoke anger, irritability, and violent hyperactivity of Liver yang that affects the clear orifices. A preference for sweet and greasy foods can also result in the Spleen’s inability to transfer and transport nutrients.

Subsequently, an accumulation and obstruction of phlegm Dampness in the interior happens and blocks the ascension of clear yang. Separately, congenital or constitutional weakness after a prolonged illness may spawn an insufficiency of blood and qi. Excessive overstrain can also consume Kidney essence, and malnourish the marrow and brain,” explains Real Health Medical TCM Physician Chu I Ta. 

Woman lying supine as she enters a CT scan machine as a physician and nurse are seen in the background
A physician may request a computed tomography (CT) scan to diagnose the root cause of vertigo.

Vertigo Treatment Options That’ll Help You Achieve Clarity  

A clinical physician usually performs a physical examination to diagnose vertigo. Examples of these are: 

  • Romberg’s test – involves closing your eyes as you stand with your feet together and arms to the side.
  • Head-impulse test –involves a gentle movement of your head from side to side as you focus on a stationary target.
  • Fukuda Stepping test – involves marching in place for thirty seconds with your eyes closed.
  • Vestibular test battery – involves several tests to identify an inner ear problem by monitoring eye movement responses.

In addition, they may also request radiographic testing procedures like a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. 

A holistic treatment approach enables TCM practitioners to diagnose organ excess or deficiency syndromes based on a person’s symptoms. People with vertigo who present with symptoms like a migraine, dry eyes, and bitter taste in the mouth have Liver yang excess or yin (passive energy) Deficiency syndrome.

Fatigue and indigestion can be signs of Spleen function imbalances. Hearing loss, night sweats, lower back pain, and ringing in the ears can indicate Kidney yin weakness. 

Undergo a medical procedure 

People who’ve been diagnosed with BPPV can consider a canalith repositioning procedure. It helps remove displaced calcium carbonate crystals trapped in the ear’s semi-circular canal. However, if vertigo is due to a concerning health issue like a brain tumour or neck injury, a specialist may suggest undergoing surgery. 

Use of medications 

A physician may prescribe medications that address the underlying reasons behind a vertigo attack. Antibiotics can help treat infections, whereas steroids are effective in suppressing inflammation.

TCM practitioners will recommend herbal formulas that make you less susceptible to attacks by tackling syndromes individually. They are Pinelliae, Ovate atractylodes and Gastrodiae decoction (ban xia bai zhu tian ma tang, 半夏白术天麻汤), Gastrodia and Uncaria decoction (tian ma gou teng yin, 天麻钩藤饮), Kidney-yin tonifying pill (zuo gui wan, 左归丸), decoction for restoring the Spleen (gui pi tang, 归脾汤) and Powder of Five Ingredients with Poria (wu ling san, 五苓散). Alternatively, qi ju di huang pills (杞菊地黄丸) can also be used to calm dizziness.

“It’s advisable to use these formulas with the guidance of your TCM practitioner. Understanding the relationship between body constitutions and symptoms can help practitioners propose appropriate prescriptions for vertigo,” advises physician Chu.

Image of the feng chi and tai xi acupoints.
The feng chi and tai xi acupoints work in unique ways to encourage balance in the organ systems.

Undergo physical therapy 

This treatment option can successfully ease vertigo by managing problems in the inner ear. Vestibular rehabilitation helps heighten your other senses, thereby compensating for episodes of vertigo. 

Acupuncture, too, can help relieve attacks by promoting balance in each organ system. Feng chi (GB20, 风池) and tai chong (LR3, 太冲) can clear the Liver and Gallbladder, and suppress hyperactive Liver yang. The combination of feng chi and bai hui (GV20, 百会) can regulate the flow of blood and qi (vital life force) in the head.

Stimulation of the latter acupoint can also be beneficial for raising blood and qi. Nei guan (PC6, 内关) is especially helpful for dissipating phlegm, regulating qi, preventing vomiting, relaxing chest oppression, and harmonising the Middle Energiser. Tai xi (KI3, 太溪) and tai chong (LR3,太衝) are used to consolidate the foundation, foster yuan (original) qi, nourish jing (essence) and blood as well as invigorate the Liver and Kidney.

Ultimately, the best way to keep the spins at bay is to ensure that your vertigo treatment regime centres on the origins of a health condition. If you wish to use acupuncture and herbal formulas, speak to a TCM practitioner. Doing so will help you ascertain if it’s safe to use these remedies in tandem with clinical treatment modalities.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Vertigo. [online] [Accessed 2 March 2022] 
  2. MedlinePlus. Vertigo-associated disorders. [online] [Accessed 2 March 2022] 

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