Handheld massage guns can cause dizziness

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A report of several individuals who experienced sudden episodes of dizziness or room dizziness after using a handheld massage gun was published in the May 2024 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Otolaryngology. The authors report on two patients who developed isolated sudden dizziness within hours of using a handheld massage gun on the upper neck/lower scalp. The described type of vertigo, called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV, is a specific entity associated with room-turning vertigo caused by head movements in a certain direction and orientation in space.

Typically, BPPV occurs when small particles of calcified crystals move around in the inner ear’s vestibular system (or vestibular system), leading to a sensation as if the chamber is spinning. This is different from the feeling of light-headedness or out of balance, and is very special because the symptoms are noticeable with movement of the head in one direction. Many people, up to one in thirty, have experienced symptoms of BPPV. It is more commonly seen in older individuals, over 50 or 60 years of age, because the small crystals in the inner ear can degenerate and become loose with age. Both patients in the current report were younger than 50 years.

Some episodes of dizziness or vertigo are accompanied by other symptoms, such as ringing in the ears or tinnitus, hearing loss, headaches, or cardiovascular events such as strokes. But BPPV is an event isolated from the vestibular system, without other ear-related or systemic physiological problems. The treatment for BPPV is one that involves creating the position that is causing the dizziness, in an attempt to eliminate the response of the inner ear balance system. These maneuvers, known as the Epley maneuvers, are briefly uncomfortable because they cause dizziness, yet are extremely successful in relieving the patient of dizziness.

The following video is a demonstration of how the Epley maneuver is performed:

Vertigo caused by portable massage guns is thought to be caused by the combination of significant force, up to 32 kilograms, with rapid repetitive movements, up to 5,000 strokes per minute. This can stimulate the release of crystals in the vestibular or vestibular system, even in younger individuals. The report notes that other high-force repetitive vibration triggers have been described, including: electric toothbrush use and dental procedures such as drilling.

Dr. Ronen Nazarian, lead author of the study and an ear specialist in Los Angeles, California, notes that both patients described in the report responded quickly to treatment with the Epley maneuvers. He also acknowledges that these portable massage guns are enjoyed by many and that they are used on the neck by many people who work at computers or have developed tight muscles in the neck and upper back. He recommends that if someone is using the device in the upper neck, they should use a lower rotation setting and lower force level, and of course, stop using the device altogether if symptoms of dizziness develop. He also warns that there are many other causes of sudden or chronic dizziness, and it is critical to be evaluated to rule out other sources of symptoms.

Although this entity is likely rare given how common portable massage guns have become, the authors note that if these presentations increase in frequency, manufacturers may consider including dizziness as a potential user risk in their packaging information, especially when the device is used in the upper used. neck area.

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