Dizziness and vertigo are the reason for over eight million visits to primary care doctors every year in the United States. These symptoms may arise from ore or more anatomical structures. Central origins include the cerebellum, brain stem or other structures in the supratentorial area while peripheral origins include the visual, vestibular and spinal proprioceptive systems. The most common cause of vertigo, however, is from a peripheral source: the cervical spine.
Cervical vertigo is a sensation related to the neck in which a person feels like the world around him is spinning. Neck disorders, poor posture or trauma to the cervical spine can lead to this condition. Many cases of cervical vertigo are result of head injury that interferes with head and neck alignment. People with cervical vertigo often experience symptoms after moving their neck. This condition can also affect their sense of concentration and balance.
Cervical Vertigo Causes
The cervical vertigo condition is still being researched but numerous potential causes have been unveiled. Arteries in the neck may be blocked due to hardening, or atherosclerosis, or a tearing (dissection) of these arteries are potential causes. Additionally, dizziness could be caused by a disruption of blood flow to the inner ear.
Another condition known as cervical spondylosis (or advanced neck osteoarthritis) may also be a cause for dizziness related to the neck. This condition causes the vertebrae and disks in the neck to wear and tear over time. This form of neck degeneration can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves as well as blocking blood flow to the brain and inner ear. A herniated disc (or a slipped disc) can also do the same without the presence of spondylosis.
Additionally, the joints and muscles within the neck have receptors that send signals to the brain and vestibular apparatus (a portion of the inner ear responsible for balance) about head movement and orientation. This system is also responsible for working with more parts of the body to help maintain muscle coordination and balance. When this system fails to work properly, receptors are unable to communicate, thus leading to dizziness and other sensory-related dysfunctions.
Symptoms of Cervical Vertigo
Symptoms associated with cervical vertigo are associated with sudden neck movement – often a result of turning one’s head. Other symptoms include:
- Ear ringing or pain
- Loss of balance while standing, walking or sitting
- Neck pain
- Difficulty concentrating
Cervical vertigo-related dizziness can last from anywhere from a few minutes to hours. The dizziness often subsides as neck pain decreases. Many people with cervical vertigo experience symptoms that worsen after exercise, sneezing or rapid movement.
Diagnosis of Cervical Vertigo
A diagnosis of cervical vertigo can be difficult to determine. Many doctors have to eliminate other causes of cervical vertigo including psychogenic vertigo, benign positional vertigo, inner ear disease and central vertigo (often related to stroke, tumors or multiple sclerosis).
Additional tests that are used to confirm diagnosis include MRI scan of the neck, flexion-extension X-ray of the cervical spine, vertebral angiography, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) among other tests.
Treatment of Cervical Vertigo
Cervical vertigo treatment often depends on the underlying cause and how it can be treated. If you experience neck pain or have a form of degenerative neck disease, it is important to follow the medical treatment plan prescribed to you to. Medication may also be prescribed. Chiropractic treatment is also a viable option.
Chiropractic Treatment for Cervical Vertigo
Treatment for injuries to or problems with the cervical spine works by correcting injuries to the upper cervical spinal region. Misalignments in the upper cervical vertebrae lead to irritation in the nerves that travel between the brain and cervical spine, leading to symptoms of vertigo.
A specific chiropractic correction of vertebrae in the cervical spine that have been misaligned helps to remove irritation in the central nervous system, thus allowing a person’s nervous system to heal and resume normal function.
Typical treatment involves an initial exam, x-rays of the upper neck region and spinal adjustments by hand to correct the vertebrae that are misaligned in the upper neck. Correction of the upper cervical spine has been proven to help improve or reverse symptoms of cervical vertigo.