Kristi Olthoff, a Banner Boswell Medical Center physical therapist, gently rotates Rita Hick's head to help an inner ear condition that results in extreme vertigo.

Mollie J. Hoppes/Daily News-Sun

Rita Hick woke up one morning and felt so dizzy that she couldn’t get out of bed.

“I remember falling back over and feeling like things were spinning out of control,” Hick said.

For a couple of weeks, the Sun Citian thought she might have the flu. But later, doctors diagnosed her with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, a disorder that occurs when small crystals of calcium normally found in the inner ear shift out of place.

“It was just too hard for me to maneuver, so I had to find a way for me to get better,” Hick said.

Hick discovered vestibular rehabilitation, a simple physical therapy performed on her at Banner Boswell Medical Center, that cured her of the illness.

“I feel so much better, and it really feels like night and day for me,” Hick said.

Kristi Olthoff, a physical therapist at Banner Boswell, has performed the rehabilitation on Hick and a number of patients with the same condition.

Other Banner Health hospitals offer physical therapists certified in vestibular rehabilitation, including Banner Del E. Webb, Banner Thunderbird and Banner Good Samaritan.

Once a patient is diagnosed with BPPV, a certified vestibular therapist can determine where the crystals are and perform a specific maneuver to reposition them and eliminate the vertigo.

The painless procedure takes less than 15 minutes and is 80 percent effective in curing BPPV without the need for medication. During the session, Olthoff lies down the patient and gently rotates the individual’s head until their symptoms are gone.

Two million Americans who suffer from chronic dizziness and about 20 percent have BPPV. Head trauma is one typical cause.

The condition also appears to be related to holding your head in a certain position for a prolonged period of time. In half of all cases, BPPV has no known cause.

BPPV affects even the most basic functions of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating and driving.

After one or two therapy sessions, Olthoff said most patients don’t usually return to her.

“I’ve only seen two people come back in because of reoccurrences, and that’s a low percentage compared to all the others I’ve treated,” Olthoff said.

Vestibular rehabilitation is only used for BPVV, Olthoff said, and not for other forms of vertigo. She also said it’s important for people to consult with a doctor in order to take the therapy.

In addition, Olthoff said don’t try to do the simple procedure without a licensed physical therapist.

“There are You Tube videos out there that show you how to do it yourself, but something could happen and no one would be there to help,” Olthoff said.

Hick said she’s grateful for therapy and feels much better.

“This is very life changing, and I know I would have been miserable if I didn’t find out what was wrong with me,” Hick said.

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