Vertigo is one of the most common symptoms experienced by people today. So why is there so much confusion regarding what vertigo is? We’re going to look at the five most confusing things people say about vertigo. This will set us up to better understand the problem. Once we know what vertigo is, we can begin to look for ways to correct the underlying cause rather than merely treating symptoms. With that in mind, here are five statements that have led to a great deal of confusion.
#1 “Vertigo Is a Fear of Heights”
This myth has an odd genesis, but not an uncommon one. Unfortunately, many people struggle to differentiate fact and fiction. So when a popular work of fiction becomes famous, it often gives way to misunderstandings. Perhaps that was the case here.
Alfred Hitchcock released a very successful film called Vertigo. The title character in the film suffered from a fear of heights. This seems to be where the confusion started. While it is true that anxiety can trigger a bout of vertigo and a person with a fear of heights may experience vertigo when looking down from high up, the fear of heights is called acrophobia.
#2 “I Have Vertigo”
Many people say they have vertigo the same way they would say they have a cold or the flu. However, vertigo is not a condition itself. It is a symptom. Thus, when a person gets vertigo, a doctor needs to be informed of this as well as any accompanying symptoms. This can help to confirm a diagnosis.
As it stands now, only about half of people who get vertigo ever find out what caused it. This too can cause people just to say they have vertigo. They don’t know what else to call it. The most common form of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV or positional vertigo). This ends up being a little bit of a catch-all diagnosis. Basically, it just means that changes in head position are what triggers an attack (hence the word positional).
#3 “I’m So Dizzy”
There’s a lot of confusion about what vertigo specifically is. Many people just call it dizziness, and that can make getting a diagnosis even more difficult. So it is important to understand exactly what vertigo is and to call it that so as to differentiate it from other forms of dizziness such as lightheadedness and disequilibrium.
Vertigo refers to a false sensation of movement – any false sensation of movement. In other words, it isn’t just when the room is spinning, although that definitely counts. It includes when the things around you seem to be moving even though they are not, but it also includes when you feel like you are moving even though you are not. For example, when the car next to you starts to roll backward at a stoplight and you hit the brake harder thinking you were moving forward, that’s technically vertigo by the strictest definition even though other environmental factors are involved.
#4 “All You Have to Do Is Close Your Eyes to Stop Vertigo”
If only it was that easy. Unfortunately, even if it is the room that seems to be spinning, closing your eyes may just make it feel like you are spinning. Severe vertigo can’t be willed away by closing your eyes and reminding yourself that you are standing still or even laying down. This is why severe vertigo can lead to nausea and vomiting. Once a bout starts, a person usually just has to ride it out.
#5 There’s No Way to Get Natural Relief from Vertigo”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are a number of things you can do that don’t involve medications and the side effects they cause or surgeries that could leave a person with permanent hearing damage. What are some of these natural ways to cope with vertigo?
- Dietary changes (low sodium in particular – but don’t change your diet without consulting a physician)
- Canalith repositioning (physician-assisted maneuvers that reset the crystals in the inner ear)
- Upper cervical chiropractic (a very specialized form of chiropractic that focuses on the atlas, the top bone in the spine)
Let’s take a closer look at how upper cervical chiropractic care may be able to help.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic and Vertigo
During any sort of head or neck trauma, even one such as a minor car accident, the atlas can become misaligned. This, in turn, can set in place a series of events that lead to vertigo. For example, an atlas misalignment can put pressure on the brainstem and inhibit function. Since this is the location where signals travel in and out of the brain, the result can be mistaken information about the location of the body in relation to its surroundings. A misalignment can also affect blood flow to the brain and thereby inhibit central nervous system (CNS) function. When vertigo is related to the CNS, it is called central vertigo.
However, the atlas is also in proximity to the ears. As a result, a misalignment can gradually affect the function of the Eustachian tubes. This can lead to excess fluid in the ear, a common cause of vertigo. This explains why case studies involving hundreds of Meniere’s disease patients show significant improvement in vertigo following upper cervical chiropractic care.
If you are suffering from vertigo, especially if you have a history of head or neck trauma, why not contact a practitioner in your area to find out if upper cervical chiropractic is the right option for you.