Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors

"Why would one feel dizzy when tilting the head?"

ZocdocAnswersWhy would one feel dizzy when tilting the head?


Why is it that when I tilt back my head I feel nauseous and dizzy? I can't exactl say when it will or won't happen - because it doesn?t happen when I lie down to sleep at night (so it seems like it's just tilting my head, right?) but sometimes it also happens why I'm reclining like in a dentist chair. Is this 'vertigo' or something worse?


When people describe the sensation of dizziness they often mean different things. Vertigo is defined as a feeling of motion when stationary, usually a sense of the room spinning, as opposed to feeling lightheaded or about to pass out. The most common cause of vertigo triggered by movement of the neck or head is a condition known as BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. They symptoms include vertigo, a sense of imbalance, and often nausea. The symptoms are brought about by a change in head position, most typically by tipping the head back to look up as you described. It is thought to be due to otoliths, or a type of little stone in your inner ear, which have been displaced or damaged. Other causes of dizziness when tilting your head back in older patients would include arthritis in your spine. It is important to see your primary car doctor to discuss your symptoms in more detail. Your doctor will be able to discuss the appropriate follow up tests (if needed) and treatment depending on your age, your past medical history, correlating symptoms, and your physical exam. If it turns out to be benign paroxysmal positional vertigo then there are a series of head motions that you can do to try to dislodge the stones in your ear as well as anti-vertigo medications which are sometimes helpful.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.