The Epley Chair does not look comfortable. And frankly, it's not meant to be. This is a sophisticated piece of medical equipment designed by Dr. John Epley in Oregon, and used by a handful of inner-ear specialists around the country. One of whom happens to be at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego.
Dr. Ian Purcell works with a team of doctors and therapists to help get people who are suffering from vertigo and constant dizziness, back on their feet.
"With vertigo, you have the room turning around all the time," says patient Geoffrey Schwartz. At 79, he had never experienced this before. "In my case it was always when lying down in bed and when I moved every now and again, lights would start running around the room. It's not pleasant."
Schwartz didn't get into see Dr. Purcell until he'd been living with the symptoms for about one year. Once he was diagnosed, he was shown the Epley Chair. Intimidating for sure. But he says everything was explained to him, and to his surprise, after just a few treatments, he felt 100% better.
The problem, say doctors, is that many times people like Schwartz experience dizziness and or vertigo because the crystals lining the inner-ear, become loose. The crystals are like weights, which tell people where gravity is -- where the ground is. When those start floating in the ear canal, rather than staying anchored in place, people get the sensation of falling when they're lying down. Or sometimes they have visual distortions, like flatware flying off the table at them; stairs moving around while they're trying to descend.
The inner-ear is part of the vestibular system, which keeps a person balanced. Doctors say even if the "dizzy chair" isn't the right mode of treatment for you, vestibular therapy, might be.
Vertigo and dizziness problems can result from something as simple as a cold, or a bump on the head.