CranioSacral Therapy & The Rare Case of Vertigo

By Gloria J. Garrett, LMT
December 4, 2018

CranioSacral Therapy & The Rare Case of Vertigo

By Gloria J. Garrett, LMT
December 4, 2018

I had heard of folks getting dizzy and nauseous when experiencing vertigo, but I had never heard of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)1 until my husband Joe was diagnosed with it.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

  • Benign – not a danger to life
  • Paroxysmal – it is a sudden occurrence
  • Positional – different head positions or movements cause it
  • Vertigo – spinning, dizziness, nausea and vomiting

One afternoon my husband started vomiting uncontrollably and couldn't open his eyes or get up off the floor. He was extremely dizzy and nauseous. He told me to call 911 and said that he thought he was dying. We were both scared about not knowing what was happening to him. The EMTs got him off the floor and took him to our local hospital's ER. I joined him in the ER later and watched him suffer horribly with dizziness and vomiting.

Every imaginable life threatening test was run on him until his doctor noticed that he had nystagmus (aka dancing eyes). He had kept his eyes closed most of the time because opening them only made the nausea and vertigo worse. The doctor called in a physical therapist (PT) to assess him for ear crystal displacement.

Ear crystals are in the inner ear tubes and float around as you turn your head one way, or another. The nerve endings in the ear are signaled by the crystal movements, which in turn message the brain and communicate where you are in time and space. Joe's ear crystals had somehow been displaced, which confused his brain and caused the vertigo. When we asked what caused the crystals to go out of place inside the ear they told us that sudden jerking or twisting movements of the neck and head.

How I Could Help as an MT

The physical therapist performed an "Epley maneuver"2 each morning and night. After each maneuver he was able to sit up more and open his eyes without as much dizziness or nausea. He was in the hospital for a total of four days before he was able to get out of bed by himself and use a walker for support and balance. I thought about what I could do to aide his healing journey after his return home. I tried some CranioSacral and found that his sub-occipital area was extremely tight and sore, so I did a very gentle release of the cranium from the base of the occiput allowing C1 to float out of the foramen magnum.

Next, I placed both hands under the occiput and did a tractioning of the dural tube to relax his central nervous system. This allowed the spine to release and created more space between the vertebrae for the nerve sleeves. I palpated his sphenoid bone's CSR (CranioSacral rhythm) and it was not moving at all.

It was important to get the sphenoid moving properly as it is the center-most bone in the cranium and the optic nerve runs through it. I decompressed his frontal bone, temporalis bones and then went back to his sphenoid. It was moving some, but I had to take it through its various positionalities to achieve better mobility. I was then able to decompress the sphenoid bone which allowed the entire sphenobasilar junction to reset.

I returned to the temporalis where I did some more releasing of blocked energy. I was then able to do a full decompression of the temporalis and release more restrictions in the tentorium. My hopes were that his inner ear canals would become less inflamed and the ear crystals would be better able to return to their proper positions.

Next, I palpated and decompressed his maxillae and mandible to ensure that his jaw was articulating properly with the temporalis. I ended the session with a sacral hold and spinal tractioning to integrate the treatment throughout his entire CranioSacral system.

A Successful Recovery

This work combined with the Epley maneuvers allowed him to return to his landscaping work, and normal daily activities in a couple of weeks. The doctor and physical therapists were surprised during his follow-up visits at how much better he was doing, feeling and looking. They were shocked that he was able to return to work in just two weeks. They stated that extreme cases like Joe's requiring four days of hospitalization usually needed two months or more before returning to work. I believe that the CranioSacral was responsible for noteworthy time difference.


  1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BBPV), Wikipedia; June 2018.
  2. Epley Maneuver, Wikipedia; June 2018.