Anytime that I treat a patient for BPPV, I always educate them on the possibility that BPPV symptoms could recur in the future.

Of course, I also encourage them to contact me right away so they don’t get the run around, develop a fear of falling or experience physical deconditioning from chronic unresolved dizziness and vertigo.

The following is the most common way that I describe a recurrence of BPPV symptoms to my patients before I send them on their merry way.

I say, “If you roll over in bed in the middle of the night or wake up first thing in the morning feeling dizzy, that is likely BPPV. If you find yourself walking like a drunken sailor, that is most likely BPPV. If you notice that you are bumping into walls, then you most likely have BPPV again.”

When I say this to my patients, they almost always chuckle and recall their own story or a friend that is experiencing these BPPV symptoms.

Of course, there are many other BPPV symptoms that I could describe to people but these three seem to hit home the hardest.

Most people with BPPV tell me that they either rolled over and felt it in the middle of the night or woke up with the BPPV symptoms first thing in the morning.

Therefore, that is a common way I am able to teach my patients to detect if they are experiencing a recurrence of BPPV symptoms.

A woman I was discussing this topic with today commented, “You know, I have a dear friend who keeps bumping into walls. She just sort of walks around bouncing off the walls literally, but she says she does not feel dizzy. I told her I think she has BPPV and she needs to get it checked out since it is so easy to fix once you find the right provider.”

Her friend’s experience is the classic “walking into walls” BPPV symptom. This can occur when someone has BPPV – with or without an active complaint of dizziness or vertigo – and needs to be addressed to prevent falls.

Another example is my beloved late grandmother Pat who passed away last December. She fell about 5-6 times over the last 11 years while I was her intermittent caregiver and she never complained of dizziness or vertigo.

She would simply say, “I feel like a drunken sailor so I think you need to check me for the crystals again.”

Every single time she had an unexplained fall due to walking like a drunken sailor, I would find a positive BPPV test when I assessed her. As soon as I treated her, she could walk straight and steady again right away.

The key point of Pat’s story is to understand that she never complained of dizziness and vertigo, but had unexplained repeated falls and always tested positive for BPPV.

Her experience was the “walking like a drunken sailor” BPPV symptom. This feeling can also occur when someone has BPPV, with or without an active complaint of dizziness or vertigo.

I hope you find this particular blog helpful in identifying current or future episodes of BPPV.



This blog is provided for informational and educational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.

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