Vertigo is the hallucination of motion. It stems from a mismatch between what is occurring in your environment and the signals from your senses. What many people may not know is that vertigo is a symptom, not a condition or disease. There are many reasons why a person might experience an episode of vertigo. It can be due to something a cold or sinus infection, or something serious like a stroke or tumor.
Having vertigo is different from feeling dizzy.
Dizziness is a vague term that describes all kinds of sensations. Dizziness can stem from dehydration, low blood pressure, motion sickness, and spinning around as you would on a merry-go-round. Vertigo, however, is a true sense of false movement. Vertigo can make a person feel dizzy, but always has the elements of whirling, spinning, swaying, or tilting. Some vertigo sufferers may feel as if they’re experiencing the movement. Others may feel as if their surroundings are spinning. Unlike dizziness, true vertigo is often accompanied by nausea or even vomiting.
Women experience vertigo three times as often as men.
The reasons for this imbalance are not entirely clear. However, the difference might be due to the fact that women experience bone loss and vitamin D deficiency differently than men. One of the main components of otoconia, crystals in the inner ear that can cause BPPV, is calcium. Both bone loss and low vitamin D levels can affect your body’s calcium metabolism. Migraines are also more common in women, and many migraine sufferers will also have some type of associated vestibular function.
Vertigo sufferers can compromise mental health.
Because vertigo attacks frequently come on suddenly without warning, many people living with vertigo develop anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Chronic vertigo has the potential to cause a big impact on the quality of life. Some people may lose the ability to drive a car, hold a job, or care for themselves and their families. This can take a great emotional and mental toll.
Activities that challenge your sense of balance can help with vertigo.
As we age, we may naturally lose coordination and the ability to balance. Additionally, the neurons in your inner ears may not function as well, adding to the problem. Finding activities that you like that give your sense of balance a challenge may help you to stave off vertigo attacks. Try things like yoga, dancing, and tai chi to keep yourself nimble.
The underlying cause of vertigo might lie in the neck.
Many vertigo sufferers have one thing in common: a past injury or trauma to the neck or head. This connection is often missed because there can be a lag time of many years between the injury and the onset of vertigo symptoms. The head position plays a critical role in normal balance and when the uppermost vertebra in the neck, the atlas (C1), is not able to balance the head in a neutral position, vertigo can easily result.
Vertigo and the Importance of a Healthy Spine
Your body relies on input and responses from several sources in order to maintain its sense of balance:
- Eyes: your sense of vision is important when it comes to relaying cues to your brain regarding your body’s orientation with respect to the environment around you.
- Joints and muscles: sensors in your muscles and joints called proprioceptors communicate to your brain about how your limbs are positioned and how to react in order to achieve a sense of balance.
- Inner ear/vestibular system: the components of your inner ear make up your vestibular system, which detects movement against gravity in all planes. Receptors in your inner ear send impulses to the brain symmetrically when both ears are functioning properly.
- Brainstem: the brainstem acts as a sorting and integration center for signals containing balance information.
The hub of all balance activity in the body is the brainstem, and the brainstem is encircled and protected by the upper cervical spine, the top two segments in the neck. These vertebrae, C1 (the atlas) and C2 (the axis), are the most freely movable of the whole spine to account for the range of motion of our head. However, being so freely movable comes with a potential downside: the ability to misalign more easily as a result of an injury or wear and tear that occurs over time.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic
If you or a loved one are living with any vertigo-causing condition, an important step to take as soon as possible is to schedule a visit to an upper cervical chiropractor. Chiropractors who focus on upper cervical care are specialists in understanding how the brain and body work together to achieve a sense of balance. When the vertebrae that balance the head are not in proper alignment, it can hinder normal signaling from the body to the brain about position sense. This can essentially cause confusion in the brain about how your body is positioned, leading to vertigo episodes as a consequence.
Upper cervical chiropractic care has helped vertigo sufferers regain their quality of life. Whether your vertigo is due to BPPV or other condition, an upper cervical chiropractor can help you. Address the underlying cause of your vertigo is important. Use the “Find a Doctor” tab on our website to locate a practitioner close to you.