Vertigo is a condition that can range from a mild annoyance to a completely disabling attack. Vertigo is the sensation the either you or your surroundings are moving. Typically, vertigo sufferers experience a spinning or whirling sensation. Sometimes a vertigo attack can also feel as if you are off balance and being pulled off to one side. Because of the spinning and unsteadiness, many vertigo attacks can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Many times, people use the terms vertigo and dizziness interchangeably, although this is not entirely accurate. Dizziness is an imprecise term that can describe many related sensations like feeling faint or light-headed, off balance and unsteady. Vertigo is a type of dizziness, and describes the particular sensation of a false sense of movement.
Vertigo and Your Vestibular System
To understand vertigo, we first need to understand how the body ordinarily maintains its sense of balance. Balance is achieved through constant input and micro-adjustments made in order to keep your body in a desired position.
The main system that coordinates your body’s balance is the vestibular system, which is made up of:
- Components of the inner ear – the inner ear contains fluid-filled canals, and structures called the utricle and saccule which sense movement.
- Cranial Nerve 8, the vestibulocochlear nerve, which conducts signals between the central nervous system and the inner ear.
- Vestibular nuclei in the brainstem and cerebellum.
There are also two other major factors your body relies on for balance:
- Visual input – what your eyes see is interpreted by the brain in order to balance
- Proprioceptive input – proprioception refers to the system by which the brain knows how your body is positioned in space. There are « sensors » throughout your body, particularly in your limbs, that provide input to the brain about how to adjust for balance.
The 4 Most Common Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo can occur for many reasons, but some are far more common than others. Regardless of the cause, the end result can feel the same – as if your surroundings are swirling or spinning around you. Anyone with vertigo can also experience nausea and vomiting as a result. The most common causes of vertigo include:
- Meniere’s disease – along with vertigo that is sometimes severe, Meniere’s disease sufferers also experience fluctuating hearing loss, a feeling of fullness in the affected ear, and tinnitus.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – BPPV occurs when crystals that are normally embedded in the inner ear become displaced. This can disturb the way that signals about body position and movement are sent to and received by the brain, leading to the illusion of movement.
- Labyrinthitis – a bacterial infection of the inner ear can impact vestibular function and lead to vertigo.
- Vestibular neuronitis – the vestibulocochlear nerve, the 8 th cranial nerve, can become inflamed, likely due to virus. This can cause a severe episode of vertigo along with nausea, vomiting, and abnormal eye movements called nystagmus.
Vertigo Relief Through Upper Cervical Chiropractic
The usual relief care approach for vertigo involves some type of medication use, depending on the cause. Individual symptoms such as nausea and vomiting are also treated with their own drugs. This can be an unsatisfying solution to some people who are looking to not merely treat symptoms, but actually get to the underlying cause of the problem. This is where upper cervical chiropractic care has been helping many vertigo sufferers to achieve results that are natural and long-lasting.
Upper cervical chiropractic care is different. We focus on a very small area of the spine that can have a very big impact on a person’s overall health. This area sits at the very top of the neck. If you feel down the back of your head to where the skull ends, you will notice how close to the ear you are. The atlas vertebra, the uppermost one in your spine, sits here in extremely close proximity to the inner ear.
The atlas also encircles the brainstem as it exits from your skull and transitions into the spinal cord below. Cranial nerve 8, the vestibulocochlear nerve that communicates signals between the inner ear and the brain branches off of the brainstem. If the atlas misaligns even slightly, it can irritate or compress this nerve and cause vertigo-inducing conditions in the body. Atlas subluxation, or misalignment, can happen for a variety of reasons. Commonly, patients who develop vertigo can recall some type of head or neck injury that preceded its onset. A minor fender bender or slip and fall can sometimes be enough force to cause an atlas misalignment that will disturb the signals that normally control our body’s sense of balance.
In a research study that followed 300 patients with vertigo over the course of six years, upper cervical chiropractic care yielded very promising results. These 300 patients were asked to rate the severity of their vertigo on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst possible symptoms. Before care, the average score was 8.5 out of 10. After only six weeks of upper cervical care, the average was reduced to 3.0. At the end of the six-year study, the average was down to 0.8 out of 10 – over a 90% improvement! About 97% of the patients reported a dramatic improvement in their condition.
No different than in the study, if an atlas misalignment is at the root of your vertigo, we can help you correct it at Center Kiro Spécifik. We use a very gentle and precise adjusting technique to restore normal atlas alignment and reduce the pressure on the brainstem and nerves. By doing so, the body’s natural healing process can occur optimally, leading to relief from vertigo.
Burcon MT, Health Outcomes Following Cervical Specific Protocol in 300 Patients with Meniere’s Followed Over Six Years. J Upper Cervical Chiropr Res 2016; June 2: 13-23.
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