YouTube Videos Offer Treatment for Vertigo

By Chelsea Whyte on July 24, 2012 10:45 PM EDT

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YouTube videos are more than just fun - they can be used to help patients correctly follow treatment instructions. (Photo: Creative Commons: jm3)

YouTube may be a fun way to pass the time watching the latest music video or catching up on cat videos, but new research shows that it could actually help sufferers of vertigo learn to apply a home treatment by watching tutorials online.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is an inner ear disorder that is a common cause of dizziness. BPPV is caused when small particles of calcium break free and float around inside fluid in the semicircular canals of the inner ear. Movement of this fluid in the brain signals the brain to alert the body about changes in position, helping maintain balance.  When the fluid is disturbed, the brain receives mixed signals about body position, resulting in a spinning sensation, reports Fox News.

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"This type of vertigo can be treated easily and quickly with a simple maneuver called the Epley maneuver, but too often the maneuver isn't used, and people are told to 'wait it out' or given drugs," said study author Kevin A. Kerber of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. "We found that accurate video demonstrations of the maneuver that health care providers and people with vertigo can use are readily available on YouTube."

The Epley maneuver is a simple exercise that involves lying down and rolling your head to move the calcium particles out of the sensitive semicircular canals and into another portion of the ear, where they don't cause the dizziness and spinning sensations associated with vertigo.

For the study, published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, Kerber and his colleagues searched YouTube for videos showing the Epley maneuver and rated their accuracy. They also reviewed the comments posted regarding the videos to see how the videos were used.

They found that a majority of the videos demonstrated the maneuver correctly, and comments showed that health care providers are using the videos as a prescribed treatment or to help patients learn about the maneuver. People with dizziness also seem to be using the videos to treat themselves, the researchers said.

"We found it encouraging to think that YouTube could be used to disseminate information about this maneuver and educate more people about how to treat this disorder," Kerber said. He and his colleagues are currently working on projects to test the effectiveness of video interventions on patient outcomes.

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