To the untrained eye, the TRV chair, capable of spinning people 360 degrees, looks like it belongs in a space centre.
There is a harness-style seat belt that straps across the shoulders and more straps around the ankles, and the whole thing can rotate like a rollercoaster.
In fact, it’s a cutting-edge treatment being used to help people experiencing vertigo or dizziness. Every year, around 20 per cent of the population suffer a dizzy spell. Sometimes this will relate to a simple viral or bacterial infection of the labyrinth — the balance centre in the inner ear.
The TRV chair is used to spin around patients experiencing vertigo or dizziness to treat them
This infection, called labyrinthitis, will normally clear in time, though it can take months. However, other forms of vertigo can be recurrent, even permanent, and can be extremely debilitating, as Jacqui Dewis discovered.
Until recently, Jacqui, 63, would spend days at a time unable to walk in a straight line, even passing out a few times.
‘The room felt like it was spinning round,’ recalls the mother of two, who works on a children’s petting farm. Jacqui was affected by the most common cause of recurrent dizziness, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
Affecting up to two per cent of the population — around 1.5 million people — the condition occurs when the tiny crystals in the utricle, a part of the inner ear connected with balance and orientation, become dislodged — this could be due to a blow to the head, for example.
However, most typically the cause is idiopathic — meaning it can’t be identified.
The patient has a harness placed over their shoulders and straps around their ankles before being spun. A man is pictured above using the machine
As the crystals float around they send the brain misleading messages that the head is spinning — resulting in feelings of dizziness.
The condition is more common in the over 50s — as the balance function of the inner ear becomes gradually less efficient with age. As well as spinning, symptoms include nausea, and can be severe enough to stop people from going about their daily lives.
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Jacqui, from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, experienced her first bout three years ago. She says: I was at home when I suddenly had to grab for a chair to steady myself. It looked like I was drunk.’
She went to bed for a few days and the feeling passed, only for her to have another bout weeks later. This time it wasn’t only dizziness that lasted days.
Jacqui says: ‘I also had pressure in my head, a pain in the left side of my neck and my neck felt stiff.’
This time she went to her GP who diagnosed BPPV and vestibular neuritis, an infection of the vestibular nerve in the inner ear.
The diagnosis was one thing, but the bad news was there was little that could be done. Jacqui was soon experiencing bouts of dizziness every few weeks that lasted several days and left her no choice but to stay in bed, taking days at a time off work.
‘I fell over once at work and had to go to A&E,’ she says. ‘They didn’t even examine me, they just referred me back to my GP.’
Yet the only treatment the GP could offer was the Epley manoeuvre — which involves moving a patient’s head from side to side as they lie down in an attempt to move the crystals back to their normal position.
But the procedure did little for Jacqui and there was nothing that could be offered for the vestibular neuritis which was also causing the sensation of pressure.
Dizziness and vertigo are caused by a viral or bacterial infection in the ear canal (pictured)