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PAH Rehab Department doing its part to aid those suffering from BPPV

September 21, 2012

Doug Covatch, DPT — physical therapist at Punxsy Hospital, (standing) is shown treating a patient (lying down) for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) with the Epley method at the rehab department at Punxsutawney Area Hospital. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Some people may jokingly say you're dizzy — an indication that you are scatterbrained — but in reality, dizziness can be a very serious malady that can cause people to lose much of their mobility.

Dr. Timothy C. Hain, MD, of Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago Ill., and the Vestibular Disorders Association, wrote that benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common disorder of the inner ear’s vestibular system, which is a vital part of maintaining balance.

"BPPV is benign, meaning that it is not life-threatening nor generally progressive. BPPV produces a sensation of spinning called vertigo that is both paroxysmal and positional, meaning it occurs suddenly and with a change in head position," Hain wrote.

If you suffer from this type of vertigo, there is good news — you don't have to travel to Chicago for treatment, as it's available right here at the Punxsutawney Area Hospital Rehab Department, said Laurie Klingensmith, manager of physician and community relations at the hospital.

Klingensmith said BPPV used to be treated by Dr. Ralph Lewis, Otolaryngologist, now retired, who used to perform the therapy at his office in Punxsy, and she wants to alert the public that the treatments are still available through the hospital's rehab department.

Doug Covatch, DPT physical therapist at Punxsy Hospital, said BPPV occurs as a result of otoconia, tiny crystals of calcium carbonate that are a normal part of the inner ear’s anatomy, detaching from one of the semicircular canals, adding that BPPV is a type of dizziness associated with an inner ear problem.

"It can randomly occur; it's not necessarily due to one specific thing," Covatch said.

Ed Kengersky, Jr., a patient who suffered from BPPV, said he suffered from the malady on two separate occasions.

"I first experienced an episode two years ago. Then, it occurred again, and Doug (Covatch) treated me back in April of this year," Kengersky said.

"I first noticed that I was off-step, and I would position something visually, and then it took a half of a second to focus in on that item," Kengersky said. "You have some dizziness along with eye malfunction."
He said that the episode he suffered from two years ago was about a seven on a scale of 10 as far as discomfort goes, while this latest bout was a five.

"I received a referral from a local physician to contact the rehab department of the hospital — specifically Doug (Covatch) — and had good luck with the Epley method in addition to the massage device," Kengersky said, adding that knowing that Dr. Lewis had retired, he decided to try receiving the treatment at the rehab unit at Punxsy Hospital.

"Within 15 minutes of treatment, I was partially cured of the vertigo, and within 48 hours I was completely cured of it," he said.

Covatch said there are three bones in the inner ear [otoconia or crystals that move around.]

"What happens is sometimes the crystals will get moved into the ear canal in a place where they're not supposed to be, and they'll get stuck in there. You have that free-flowing maneuver, which allows the body to tell you where your equilibrium is," Covatch said, adding that if it gets stuck, it throws a person off as to where he or she is.

"The Epley maneuver, or repositioning maneuver, is a maneuver of the posterior or anterior canals," he said. "Free floating particles from the affected semicircular canal are relocated, using gravity, back into the utricle, where they can no longer stimulate the cupula, therefore relieving the patient of bothersome vertigo."

He said that Kengersky had experienced a successful recovery with just one treatment.

"We'll treat you the first visit and schedule you for another time," Covatch said, adding that if a person is scheduled but feels fine, the individual can cancel the follow-up treatment.

Klingensmith said a patient has to be recommended by his or her primary physician, and the treatment is covered by most insurances.

For more information call Punxsy Hospital's rehab department at 938-1827.

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