6 Exercises Recommended for Vertigo

27 November, 2020
The feeling that everything is spinning, a headache, and feeling nauseous are usually the most common symptoms of vertigo. In this article we explain a series of exercises that will help to alleviate these symptoms.

According to the Spanish Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, around 80% of people experience an episode of vertigo at some point in their lives, and it’s more common in adults over 40. As such, in this article, we’re going to share a few exercises for vertigo to help relieve the symptoms.

Even though there are different causes and types, the most common form responds to a problem in the inner ear, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It usually develops after minor changes to your posture or moving your head.

Basically, what happens is that a series of tiny calcium crystals that are found in the inner ear that aid balance, become dislodged and insert themselves into the semicircle canal of the ear. As such, they cause you to feel like everything is spinning around you.

How do the recommended exercises for vertigo work?

The recommended exercises for vertigo help the dislodged crystals return to the inner ear, where they don’t cause any vertigo symptoms.

Before doing these exercises, however, it’s important to identify which ear is causing the problem.

The easiest way to identify which ear is causing the issue is to turn your head to the right and then the left, looking over your shoulder. After doing this, you should be able to tell which direction causes you to feel the most vertigo. For example, if the feeling increases when you tilt your head to the left, it’s likely that this is the affected side.

man with ear pain caused by vertigo
The symptoms of vertigo originate in the ear in the majority of cases.

Keep reading: What are the symptoms of vertigo?

The Epley maneuver

The Epley maneuver consists of several movements for the head that are usually guided by a doctor or physiotherapist. It’s done in the following way:

  • With the patient sitting on a bed, the specialist will turn the patient’s head 45 degrees towards the affected ear.
  • The specialist then asks the patient to lay down again, ensuring that they keep their head tilted and letting it hang off the end of the bed. At this moment the patient will likely suffer an episode of vertigo. The head should be kept there until the feeling stops.
  • After this, the specialist will turn the patient’s head 90 degrees toward the unaffected ear, repositioning the crystals.

DIY version of the maneuver

Although this movement should be supervised by an expert, here we’ll explain a version that you can simply do at home:

  • Sit on your bed with your legs stretched out in front of you, supported by a pillow.
  • Put another pillow behind you which will be behind your shoulders when you lie down.
  • Turn your head 45 degrees toward the affected ear.
  • Lean back quickly, putting your shoulders on the pillow, and wait for 30 seconds.
  • Turn your head 90 degrees, looking to the opposite side, and wait for 30 seconds.
  • Return to your initial position, sitting upright.

The Semont maneuver

Just like the Epley maneuver, the Semont maneuver should be guided by a doctor or physiotherapist. It’s done like this:

  • With the patient sitting on the bed, the specialist turns the head 45 degrees to the opposite side of the affected ear
  • Keeping the head turned, the specialist lays the patient on their side, the side of the affected ear. They stay here for 30 seconds.
  • Later, they can return to their initial position

The Foster maneuver

The Foster maneuver is one of the most simple to do because it doesn’t require you to lay down on the bed, nor someone else’s help. You should follow these steps:

  • Kneel on a comfortable surface and put your hands on the floor. Move your head up and down until you feel that the dizziness has decreased.
  • Later, bring your head towards the floor, trying to touch your knees.
  • Without lifting your head from the floor, turn it 45 degrees towards the side of the affected ear, looking at your shoulder.
  • Stay in this position for 30 seconds.
  • With your head tilted 45 degrees, now lift it to the same level as your shoulders. Once there wait another 30 seconds with your head at an angle.
  • After 30 seconds, lift your head until you’re upright again.

To make it effective, you have to repeat the maneuver three to five times, with a 15-minute pause between each exercise.

The Brandt-Daroff maneuver

The Brandt-Daroff exercises are very easy to do at home. To do it, you have to sit on your bed and follow these steps:

  • Lay on your side with your head facing up, in a 45-degree position relative to the bed.
  • Stay in this position for 30 seconds or at least until the vertigo disappears.
  • After, return to your seated position.
  • Lay down on the opposite side and repeat the same routine.

According to a study published in the San Antonio de Murcia Catholic University’s Journal of Physiotherapy, the Brandt-Daroff exercises are highly efficient as and when the patient does 5 sets at least 3 times a day for two consecutive weeks.

Discover more: Reduce Vertigo with these Natural Remedies

Other exercises recommended for vertigo

There are also other exercises that specialists recommend, that can help to combat the disorder. It’s important to do these exercises with care to avoid falling or injuries from fainting that may accompany the syndrome.

Exercises for balance and posture control

These exercises aim to give an adequate motor response to certain sensory stimuli to improve balance. Here, we’ll share some of the easiest ones:

  • Go up and down 10 steps with your eyes open several times. Then, repeat this exercise with your eyes shut.
  • With your feet apart and resting your ankles on a mat, shift your weight forwards and backward, without bending your hips, simulating the movement of a pendulum. Then repeat this exercise several times but to either side. Once you feel comfortable, repeat it with your eyes closed.
  • Walk on your tiptoes forwards and backward in a straight line. First, do this with your eyes open and then with your eyes shut.
  • Stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Do it first with your eyes open and then with them shut. Repeat it 5 times on each leg.
  • Stand near a surface you can lean on and lift one foot to trace the letters of the alphabet. Once you have done this with one leg, repeat it with the other.
Woman suffering from vertigo
The annoying symptoms of vertigo can reduce if you do the exercises we discuss in this article.

Keep reading: How to Prevent and Treat Positional Vertigo

Exercise to improve ocular reflexes and stabilize your vision

This exercise is intended to improve the visual interaction when performing the head movements and improve visual stability.

To do this, place a card against a wall and stand about 25 centimeters away from it.

Then, move your head slowly in a horizontal way from left to right, trying to keep the letters in focus. Do this exercise for a minute, rest, then repeat it but in a vertical way.

Consult a doctor about these exercises for vertigo

Although these exercises are usually helpful, it’s still necessary that before you do them, you consult a specialist about your variation of vertigo and the exercises that are the most recommended for your specific case. This is especially the case if you have a neck or back injury.

It’s normal to feel vertigo during these exercises. Therefore, you should do them calmly, rest between each set, and wait a few minutes before getting to your feet.

  • Foster C. Carol Foster, MD Vertigo Treatment Oct 11. Estados unidos : University of Colorado Denver; 2013.
  • Tratamiento Manual del vértigo posicional paroxístico benigno. Revista de Fisioterapia – Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia [Internet]. 2008 [citado 15 octubre 2020];1:43–52. Disponible en: http://193.147.26.104/handle/10952/376
  • Los trastornos del equilibrio, motivo frecuente de consulta en urgencias – Sociedad Española de Otorrinolaringología (SEORLCCC). [Internet]. 2018;. Disponible en: https://seorl.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/NP-Vertigo.pdf
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  • Bernal Valls, Esther, Víctor Faus Cuñat, and Raquel Bernal Valls. “Presbivértigo: ejercicios vestibulares.” Gerokomos 17.4 (2006): 197-200.
  • Morera, Enrique Arce, et al. “Efectividad de los ejercicios de Brandt-Daroff en pacientes con vértigo posicional paroxístico benigno.” Revista Cubana de Medicina General Integral 36.3 (2020).
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