(CBS News) Vertigo sufferers may have a promising new tool to help in their treatment: YouTube.
Researchers found that people who suffer from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) - an inner ear disorder that can cause dizziness - can benefit from watching YouTube videos demonstrating a motion known as the Epley Maneuver.
BPPV is caused by loose calcium carbonate crystals that move in the sensing tubes of the inner ear. It is the most common cause of vertigo. Doing the Epley Maneuver moves the crystals from the sensing tubes to another inner chamber of the ear, where it will not cause the person to feel a spinning sensation.
Dr. Kevin A. Kerber, from University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, said in a press release that this type of vertigo can be treated "easily and quickly" with the Epley. "But too often the maneuver isn't used, and people are told to 'wait it out' or given drugs. 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 study was published in the July 24 issue of Neurology.
For the study, researchers looked up videos that showed the Epley Maneuver, rated their accuracy and reviewed the comments to see how the maneuvers were received. They looked through a total of 3,319 videos on vertigo, finding 33 that demonstrate the Epley Maneuver. All together, the videos had almost 2.8 million views. Sixty-five percent of those videos showed the maneuver accurately, the researchers said.
Five of the videos accounted for 85 percent of all views. The video with the most hits was one developed by the American Academy of Neurology when it published its guideline recommending the use of the Epley Maneuver, seen below. That video was uploaded by a regular user and not the organization. Here's the official video from the AAN:
The second most popular video showed how to perform the maneuvers if you were alone at home.
Comments showed that the videos were being used by health providers to help demonstrate to their patients how to do the treatment and also by people who were trying to treat themselves. Researchers worried, however, that people might be self-diagnosing themselves with BPPV and treat it with the Epley Maneuver, when something else might be causing the dizziness. They also want to do more research on whether video tutorials affect the patient outcomes.
"One shortcoming of the videos was that they did not include information on how to diagnose BPPV, and some of the comments indicate that people who do not have BPPV may be trying these maneuvers because of dizziness from other causes," Kerber said. "Despite this, 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."
Dr. Ronald Kanner, chair of neurology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., and North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., told HealthDay that diagnosis is one of the most important parts of getting help for vertigo. While the Epley Maneuver works and the videos may help people with treatment, it won't be effective if the person doesn't have vertigo in the first place.
"For a procedure to be effective, the diagnosis needs to be made correctly and the treatment applied appropriately," he told HealthDay. "While the authors helpfully describe what is likely to become a significant trend, we must exercise caution in self-diagnosis and self-treatment. Furthermore, patients may experience extreme dizziness following the procedure and it should not be done without a watchful eye to protect the patient."