Breathing exercises are a relaxation technique that may help during a vertigo attack. Vertigo is a sensation that makes you feel like the room around you is spinning. It can occur due to several causes.

This article will discuss three types of breathing exercises for vertigo and other types of exercises used for the condition.

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Breathing Exercises for Vertigo

There are several causes of vertigo, including ear infections, migraine, anxiety, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Vertigo can also occur with other health conditions, or it may be a side effect of certain medications.

Depending on the underlying cause, vertigo often occurs with other uncomfortable symptoms, such as dizziness, loss of balance, or nausea. Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises may help during a vertigo attack.

Attacks of vertigo in BPPV last less than a minute to a few minutes for many people. In other disorders and for some people, an attack might last longer.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Controlled breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, help reduce the stress response in your body that can be caused by vertigo.

How to do it:

  1. Sit or lie flat on the floor in a comfortable position.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower abdomen.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Fill your belly with air, breathing in as deeply as you can. The hand resting on your belly should rise as you inhale.
  4. Slowly exhale through your mouth.
  5. Repeat for several breaths or until your symptoms decrease.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing opens up the airways by prolonging the time it takes to exhale. This technique also increases the amount of gas exchange—oxygen coming in and carbon dioxide moving out—to make breathing more effective.

How to do it:

  1. Breathe in through your nose.
  2. Pucker your lips (like you’re going to kiss or blow out candles).
  3. Slowly breathe out through your puckered lips.
  4. Repeat for several breaths.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a technique that is often done in yoga (called Nadi Shodhan pranayama). This type of breathing has a calming effect on the nervous system and has been shown to decrease blood pressure.

How to do it:

  1. Sit up straight but in a comfortable position.
  2. Using one hand, position your thumb over your right nostril and ring finger over the left nostril.
  3. Close the right nostril.
  4. Breathe in deeply through your left nostril.
  5. Close the left nostril and open the right nostril.
  6. Breathe out through your right nostril.
  7. Breathe in deeply through your right nostril.
  8. Close the right nostril and open the left nostril.
  9. Breathe out through your left nostril.
  10. Repeat up to 10 times in a row.

Other Exercises for Vertigo

Vertigo caused by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo occurs when small crystals in your inner ear move out of place. Special maneuvers can be performed to move the crystals back into place or help your brain get used to the sensations that vertigo produces.

The exercises used will be different depending on where in the ear the crystals have become dislodged, such as the posterior canal or the lateral canal.

Use Caution With These Exercises

Before you attempt exercises for BPPV, see a healthcare provider to determine that BPPV and not something else is the cause of your vertigo and to determine which ear canal is affected. Maneuvers for posterior canal BPPV may delay healing if you have lateral canal BPPV.

It’s also a good idea to have your healthcare provider show you how to do these exercises before attempting them on your own. Performing them incorrectly can make your symptoms worse.

Epley Maneuver

Follow these instructions if your right ear is affected (reverse them for the left ear):

  1. Sit up straight on the edge of your bed.
  2. Turn your head to the right, approximately 45 degrees.
  3. Keeping your head in this position, lie down quickly onto your back.
  4. Stay in this position for 30 seconds.
  5. Turn your head to the left 90 degrees until it is positioned at a 45-degree angle.
  6. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  7. Roll onto your left side, then sit up.

The Epley maneuver can stop vertigo symptoms quickly for many people. Others may continue to have minor symptoms or need to repeat it.

Brandt-Daroff Exercise

Brandt-Daroff exercises follow these steps:

  1. Sit up straight on the edge of your bed.
  2. Quickly lie down on your right side while turning your head 45 degrees to the left.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds (or longer, until your symptoms go away).
  4. Sit up quickly and remain seated for 30 seconds (or until your symptoms go away).
  5. Quickly lie down on your left side while turning your head 45 degrees to the right.
  6. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  7. Sit up quickly and remain seated for 30 seconds.
  8. Repeat five times in each direction.

Dizziness During BPPV Exercises

It’s normal to experience dizziness or even nausea during BPPV exercises, particularly when you first begin and when you are quickly changing positions. Take your time and focus on your breathing to help your symptoms subside. Be patient—your symptoms will improve quicker the more you practice these exercises.

Semont Maneuver

Here’s how the Semont maneuver is performed if your right side is affected:

  1. Sit up straight on the edge of the bed.
  2. Turn your head 45 degrees to the left.
  3. Keeping your head in this position, lie down on your right side.
  4. Stay on your side until your symptoms subside.
  5. Quickly sit up, then lie down on your left side, keeping your head turned 45 degrees to the left.
  6. Remain on your side until your symptoms subside, then sit up.

Stay upright for several hours after you’ve done the Semont maneuver to help the repositioned crystals in your inner ear stay in the correct spot.

Foster Maneuver

The Foster maneuver—sometimes called the half somersault maneuver—is performed following these steps if the right ear is affected (reverse for the left). Remain in each position until symptoms subside.

  1. Begin in a kneeling position with your hands on the floor.
  2. Quickly tip your head back, looking up toward the ceiling.
  3. Bring your chin to your chest as if you are beginning to do a somersault, resting the top of your head gently on the floor.
  4. Slowly turn your head to the right until you are facing your right elbow.
  5. Keeping your head in the turned position, quickly lift it up to shoulder level.
  6. Sit up slowly.

Summary

Vertigo causes a sensation that feels like the room is spinning. This can occur with conditions that affect the inner ear, or as a side effect of medication. It can also occur with health conditions such as anxiety or migraines. Breathing exercises can help ease symptoms caused by vertigo. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)—a common cause of spinning sensations—is also treated with special maneuvers that address the underlying cause of your symptoms.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT

Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living. 

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