How to Know if Your Vertigo and Migraines Are Linked


As if a vertigo attack or a migraine episode isn’t bad enough, some people with the disorder called vestibular migraine experience the combination of both from time to time.

Vertigo is the false sense of movement of a person or their surroundings. On the other hand, migraines are a neurological condition that causes severe headaches, visual disturbances, and other debilitating symptoms. 

Do you have a history of both vertigo and migraine episodes? Ask yourself these questions to help you determine if your migraine and vertigo attacks are connected. 

Question #1: Do you have vestibular symptoms regardless of when you’re experiencing migraine signs?

Vestibular migraine patients experience vestibular symptoms, whether migraine symptoms exist or not. Common vestibular symptoms are vertigo, dizziness, motion sensitivity, loss of balance, and many more. These symptoms often last 5 minutes to 3 days. Sometimes they even last for weeks or months.

Patients often experience a wide range of sensations. For example, they may feel unsteady and unable to walk straight, or as if they have “sea legs” where they feel movement in the ground beneath them.

If you suffer from vertigo and migraine symptoms, even if you don’t experience them at the same time, you may have vestibular migraines.

Question #2: Are your vertigo episodes different in severity each time? 

Common vestibular disorders such as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) or Meniere's disease bring about vertigo attacks that are quite consistent in their severity. However, vestibular migraines can bring on vertigo of varying intensity.

If your vertigo attacks fluctuate between mild to moderate and severe, then vestibular migraine might be behind it. 

Question #3: Are there other migraine symptoms when you go through a vertigo attack?

If you have vestibular migraines, your vertigo attacks may come along with symptoms of a migraine, such as the following:

  • Hypersensitivity to light, smells, sound, or touch
  • Ringing or roaring sound in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Visual disturbances (aura), such as seeing wavy lines, having blurred vision or blind spots
  • Headache – headaches due to migraines are moderate to severe. They often only affect one side of the head. Patients may also experience a pulsating or throbbing sensation in the area of the affected eye or the sinuses. 

Question #4: Do you notice worse vertigo attacks when exposed to common migraine triggers?

Another clue that you may have vestibular migraines is that your vertigo attacks worsen when you expose yourself to common migraine triggers. These triggers have four categories: 

  • Hormonal

Women may experience vertigo symptoms that coincide during their menstruation.  Other hormonal changes that have something to do with vestibular migraines are menopause and pregnancy. 

  • Behavioral

This includes changes in sleeping schedule, stressful situations, changes in an exercise routine, or becoming very emotional over something. 

  • Environmental

It involves changing weather conditions such as extreme hot or cold temperatures, changes in barometric pressure, lightning storms, and low or high humidity levels. Strong smells such as chemicals or perfumes are also under this category.

  • Dietary

Certain foods and food additives can trigger attacks for people with vestibular migraines. Below are some examples:

  • Chocolate
  • Aspartame
  • MSG
  • Alcohol
  • Red wine
  • Caffeine
  • Food dyes
  • Tyramine (found in preserved foods like meats and cheeses)

Vertigo symptoms can occur right away upon exposure to any of these triggers. Sometimes, the reaction will only hit after a few hours or even days. 

More About Vertigo & Vestibular Migraines

How vestibular disorders, vertigo, and migraines occur remains undefined. However, one thing definite is that they have some connections. 

In a study of 200 patients, vertigo patients showed a 38% increased chance of also getting migraines than patients without vertigo. Vertigo attacks hit about 50% of all migraine patients before, during, or after the migraine headache. For this reason, researchers claim that vestibular migraines are more common of a problem than we think. 

The vestibular system maintains your sense of balance along with the other parts of your body. Inside the ears are components that identify linear movement, gravity, and rotation. The semicircular canals in the inner ear have fluid that reacts to your body’s position and creates information the brain can use for keeping balance. 

The brain also gets signals from your eyes, joints, and muscles to figure out your body’s position. It makes necessary corrections for you to stay balanced. 

A malfunction within the vestibular system can result in the sending of wrong information to the brain, which causes vertigo. 

Vertigo Recovery with Atlas Orthogonal

Atlas Orthogonal care is a category of upper cervical chiropractic that focuses on the top two bones in the spine, their positions, and how to keep them aligned so that the central nervous system remains fully functioning at its best.

Disruption in the transmission of signals between the brain and body can occur if there is a misalignment in the upper cervical spine. Even worse, it can affect the vestibular function and lead to vertigo or vestibular migraines.

The Atlas (C1) and Axis (C2) vertebrae protect the brainstem. Their locations are very close to the inner ear. For these reasons, it makes sense how a misalignment in this part of the spine can be a contributing factor to vertigo or vestibular migraines. 

The Atlas Orthogonal approach is a unique form of care. Upper cervical chiropractors who employ this technique get precise measurements of each misalignment. In this way, they can give patients adjustments that fit their individual needs.  

Seek an upper cervical chiropractor near you to help you get the much-needed relief from debilitating symptoms of vertigo and migraines.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.