Vertigo, the feeling of having the world around you spin or feeling like you’re moving when you’re actually not, is not a condition in and of itself. Rather, vertigo is a symptom of another underlying health issue. Living with vertigo can be debilitating – it can limit your ability to work, drive a car, sleep well, and socialize with others. It can also cause a great deal of anxiety, never knowing when the next episode might occur.
Generally speaking, vertigo is related to a problem with the inner ear. When this is the case, it is called peripheral vertigo. Central vertigo happens when the brain or nervous system is the source of the problem. There are many different conditions that are linked to vertigo, making it a tricky condition to manage. Identifying the root cause of why you are experiencing bouts of vertigo can help guide you towards the most appropriate care options.
The Most Common Reasons for Vertigo
There are three common causes of vertigo, all peripheral, that account for approximately 93% of all cases:
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) – BPPV is the single most common cause of vertigo. It occurs when tiny particles of calcium that normally stay embedded in the tissue of your inner ear become loose and migrate to the fluid-filled canals of the inner ear where they don’t belong. Since the inner ear is responsible for sending balance signals to the brain about how your head and body are positioned with relationship to gravity, the abnormal placement of the calcium crystals can disturb this normal signaling system and cause bouts of vertigo. Many people will notice their first vertigo episode when rolling over in bed, or other positional changes such as rising up to sit from a reclined position.
- Meniere’s disease – the vertigo episodes associated with Meniere’s disease can be severe. Meniere’s disease is also a disorder of the inner ear in which there is a buildup of excess fluid called endolymph. In addition to vertigo, Meniere’s sufferers also experience tinnitus (ringing in the affected ear), fluctuating hearing loss, and pressure in the ear. Typically, only one ear is affected, but it can occur on both sides in rare cases.
- Labyrinthitis – labyrinthitis, or vestibular neuritis, is usually a result of a viral infection of the inner ear. The infection creates inflammation in the inner ear around the nerves that carry balance signals from the inner ear to the brain. As a result, vertigo episodes will occur.
Other, Less Common Causes of Vertigo
Though the three vertigo-causing conditions above are, by far, the most common, there are other underlying causes of vertigo worth mentioning:
- Migraine – around 40% of migraines sufferers will experience vertigo as a component of a migraine episode.
- Mal de debarquement – upon disembarking from travel on water by boat, some people will experience a lasting sensation of movement as if they were still on the water. This can also occur following automobile, train, or air travel. This illusion of movement is common and usually resolves quickly but people with mal de debarquement can experience vertigo and other false sensations of motion for months or years after the initial occurrence.
- Acoustic neuroma – an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor that forms on the main nerve (cranial nerve VIII) that conducts balance signals from the inner ear to the brain.
- Multiple sclerosis – MS is an unpredictable neurological condition that causes the myelin sheath around nerves to become damaged or destroyed. When this affects the nerves that help to control balance, vertigo and dizziness can result.
- Pregnancy – many changes that occur in the body during pregnancy including hormone balance, blood sugar regulation, and pressure on blood vessels from an expanding uterus can cause dizziness or vertigo to occur.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care is for Vertigo Sufferers
Many vertigo sufferers have one thing in common – at some point, they had an injury to the head and/or neck (even seemingly mild) that caused the uppermost vertebra in the neck to misalign. The atlas vertebra is the keystone of the spine, sitting just beneath the base of the skull supporting the weight of the head and protecting the brainstem. Both the inner ear and the central nervous system can be influenced by a misalignment of the upper cervical spine. This is due to the proximity of the atlas to the inner ear and the fact that it houses the brainstem where the origin of the vestibulocochlear nerve (the nerve that carries balance signals between the inner ear and brain) lies.
Upper cervical chiropractors are in the ideal position to offer a solution to vertigo sufferers, and many have been seeing promising results. Because of our narrow focus on the upper cervical region of the spine, upper cervical chiropractors are able to construct precise corrections that restore normal atlas alignment without the need for a forceful neck adjustment. By realigning the atlas, the inner ear can drain properly and normal neurological communication can be restored between the inner ear and brain. Once this system is working normally again, vertigo symptoms can reduce and even eventually disappear completely.
If you are suffering from vertigo, whether caused by the conditions discussed above or otherwise, relief is possible. Research studies have shown promising results with upper cervical chiropractic care. To learn more, setting up a consultation with an upper cervical chiropractor in your area is simple. This will allow you to better understand your condition, discuss options for care, and know if upper cervical care is the natural solution you’ve been hoping for.
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