The P stands for Paroxysmal. This is a fancy word that means it is not constant. It comes and it goes, so it is occasional.
The second P stands for Positional.
Vertigo is defined as a false sense of spinning, tilting, or translating when you are actually still, OR it can be a distorted perception of otherwise normal motions.
Someone with vertigo is going to have a false feeling of motion or a distortion of normal motion. Whereas, someone with dizziness is going to have a feeling of lightheadedness or a feeling like they are about to pass out.
Dizziness is the kind of feeling that people get if they stand up too quickly, especially if they are on blood pressure medicine or dehydrated. They do not feel any false motion, but they feel like they might pass out.
Vertigo, by definition, has a false sense of motion or a distortion of motion.
This false sense of motion can be a tilting feeling, spinning feeling, or a sliding feeling.
The false feeling of sliding or tilting is typically forward, backward, to the side, or some combination of those directions.
The spinning feeling can be either clockwise or counter-clockwise in the direction you are facing, or a sideways spin as if you are rolling in a barrel.
I had a young lady recently who was walking straight down a level hallway in her home and she said that she felt like she was walking down into the floor or down a set of stairs. She looked perfectly normal to me but she felt like she was walking down into the ground or sinking into the floor with each step.
That example is considered vertigo because she had an abnormal perception of otherwise normal motion.
I had another patient who described feeling like she was thrown off the edge of the earth into a spinning black hole when she rolled over in bed. To an observer, she simply looked like she was rolling over in bed.
That is a classic description of vertigo caused by BPPV.
Vertigo can manifest in any of those ways, but the point is that what the person feels like is happening, is not what anyone looking at them sees happening. That is why BPPV creates an invisible disability.
I have published many other free, educational blogs with more detailed information about common causes of BPPV and recurrence of BPPV. I also have blogs on prevention of BPPV, self-treatment for BPPV, and how BPPV can affect your sleeping position as well as a BPPV overview.
This blog is provided for informational 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.