In Alfred Hithcock’s classic film Vertigo (1958), detective Scottie Ferguson, played by James Stewart, is a top detective who’s had to step down from his job. The reason: a crippling fear of heights and violent episodes of vertigo.
While Hitchcock’s masterpiece tried to convey the spinning sensation that vertigo sufferers have, the reality is even worse than the glimpse we get in the film.
As Carol Foster described it in a YouTube video, “I woke up one morning and everything started spinning. The room goes like a spiral into space. You feel like you’re flying off the bed.” This sensation of vertigo would probably terrify and baffle most people, but it just so happens that Carol Foster is a medical doctor and professor at the University of Colorado in Denver who studies the functioning of the ear.
After her own scary episode of vertigo, Dr. Foster had a brilliant insight into how vertigo might be effectively treated, one that has changed the lives of thousands of people all over the world.
First of all, what is vertigo caused by? Foster explains that the sequence of actions leading to vertigo begins when we go to sleep. “When we lay [sic] down in bed at night, the particles [from our middle ear] can just fall in by gravity.”
When we sit up in bed, first thing in the morning, the particles that have fallen down “can form into a big clump” in the inner ear. As we move or shift our head from side to side, the particles can touch a sensor in the ear structure that stimulates a feeling of spinning.
But on that morning, Dr. Foster needed to figure out how to use her theoretical knowledge of the problem to come up with a practical solution. “I had to figure out how to get them out” of the inner ear, she explains.
Making a model of the inner ear ring with her hands, she realized that if they were turned around and over, this might dislodge the particles and end the awful spinning feeling. “I realized that if I went forward, I could get the particles out. I made up the half-somersault. Did it, came up, and it was gone.”
What exactly is Foster’s unique move? Well, we all remember doing somersaults across the lawn or in the park when we were kids. Her technique is quite similar but doesn’t tip the body fully over.
As she explains, the first step is to kneel down. Then you lean your back head and look straight up to the ceiling. For some people, this may activate the spinning feeling, but it’s important because “that helps start the particles moving.”
The second stage looks a lot like prep for a somersault. You lean forward with your head all the way down to the ground, with your head tucked under.
Third, you need to turn your head to face one of your elbows, either left or right depending on where the sensation is coming from. As Foster explains, it will be “the side that you get the most dizzy when rolling over.” As the particles are being dislodged, “you wait for all the spinning to stop or you can count to 30.”
Fourth, you will raise your head up quickly but not all the way up. Stop about halfway so your head and your spine are in one straight, horizontal line. All the while, Foster says, “you’re keeping your head at that 45 degree angle.”
Last but not least, after waiting until the dizziness has dissipated, you bring your head all the way back up to where you started.
For some patients with severe problems, doing a few half-somersaults might be necessary. However, the method really works, and millions of people have watched Dr. Foster’s simple cure for this debilitating problem.
As Dr. Foster told KCNC: “I hear from people in Poland and in Saudia [sic] Arabia and in Paris. It’s so gratifying to get their feedback and hear them say, ‘I was so ill and now I’m well.'”