Common Vertigo Questions Answered

Vertigo, or the sensation that you or the environment around you is spinning or moving, is not a condition in and of itself.  Rather, vertigo is a symptom of a variety of health conditions.  The sensation of vertigo can range from very mild, or it can be so debilitating that it makes doing everyday tasks like driving or walking impossible.  Depending on the source of your vertigo, an attack can be brief, lasting no more than a few seconds, or you may have to endure your symptoms for several days.

What is vertigo?  Is it the same as dizziness?

This is one of the most frequent mix-ups when it comes to understanding vertigo.  The term dizziness tends to be used as a catch-all phrase to include actual vertigo (the feeling of spinning or whirling when you’re actually still), feeling faint or lightheaded, or unsteadiness (loss of balance).  Vertigo is not a fear of heights, as it is commonly referred to.

How common is vertigo?  Do a lot of people experience it?

Experiencing vertigo is more common than one might think.  It is estimated that about 40% of people across the United States will experience some form of difficulty with dizziness or balance during their lifetime.  The chances of vertigo occurring also increase as a person ages, becoming more prevalent starting in the early 20s.  Consequences of vertigo also increase as you get older, since a loss of balance in the elderly can result in injury and bone fractures.

What causes vertigo to occur?

There can be a lot of reasons why vertigo develops, ranging from simple (the common cold) to more severe (due to head trauma).  The most common causes of vertigo include the following:

  • Meniere’s disease
  • BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo)
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Vestibular neuronitis
  • Vestibular migraine

Vertigo or dizziness can also be an unwanted side-effect of certain medications.

Can vertigo be a sign of something more serious?

Most often, vertigo can be explained by causes that are less serious.  However, in rare cases, vertigo and dizziness can be caused by other conditions that require further medical attention.  Less common causes of vertigo include tumors, stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) affecting the brainstem, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Will Epley’s Maneuver help me?

The Epley Maneuver is used specifically for people who have BPPV, or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.  BPPV causes intense bouts of vertigo.  Otoconia, small calcium crystals that are normally embedded within the inner ear, can come loose and travel to parts of the inner ear where they don’t belong.  When the head is placed in a certain position, the inner ear is abnormally stimulated which results in severe vertigo.  The Epley Maneuver is made up of a series of specific head and body positioning moves that attempt to shift the otoconia back to a part of the inner ear where they won’t produce vertigo symptoms.

Will a low-salt diet help me?

A low-salt or low-sodium diet is usually recommended for Meniere’s Disease patients.  The logic behind this recommendation is that those with Meniere’s have an abnormally large fluid balance in their inner ear.  Excess sodium causes overall fluid retention in the body, so eliminating excess salt intake from your diet might help to reduce the fluid balance in the inner ear as well.

How is vertigo typically treated?

Standard treatment options for vertigo revolve around mitigating the particular symptoms that a person experiences with an attack:

  • Anti-nausea or anti-vomiting medications
  • Anti-histamines for inner ear disorders
  • Diuretic medications to reduce fluid retention
  • Physical therapy or vestibular rehabilitation
  • Avoiding movements that trigger an attack, such as bending down or looking up

Are there natural care options for vertigo?

Many people suffering from vertigo often want two things – to be rid of their symptoms and to avoid long-term medication usage doing so.  This means seeking out natural, non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical methods of vertigo treatment.  One thing many vertigo sufferers share in common is some type of head or neck injury at some point in their past.  Injuries that might cause vertigo, even many years after the fact, don’t have to be severe (although they certainly can be).  Minor fender-benders, a fall while skiing or cycling, or even hitting your head on the kitchen cabinet can all create the conditions under which vertigo can develop.  In a study conducted on 300 patients with Meniere’s disease, it was found that all of them had undiagnosed whiplash that caused a very specific misalignment of the uppermost vertebra in the neck.  Once this misalignment was corrected by an upper cervical chiropractor, 97% of the patients reported a dramatic improvement or a complete remission of their vertigo symptoms.

Can upper cervical chiropractic care help my vertigo?

One of the best parts of upper cervical chiropractic care is that a great deal of time and effort is spent on the examination and analysis of the upper cervical spine.  If you are suffering from vertigo and seek out the care of an upper cervical chiropractor in your area, some of the first steps are to take a detailed history (including any occurrence of head or neck injury, no matter how small), and to perform a thorough examination of the cervical spine.  This includes precise x-rays to identify misalignments down to fractions of millimeters that might be contributing to the root cause of your vertigo episodes.  If it is discovered that an upper cervical misalignment is present, gentle adjustments designed particularly for each individual can restore normal alignment, thereby reducing or eliminating vertigo at its source.  To see if upper cervical care is a good fit for you, an obligation-free consultation with a doctor in your area is the first step towards natural and long-lasting relief.



Burcon MT, Health outcomes following cervical specific protocol in 300 patients with Meniere’s followed over six years. J Upper Cervical Chiropr Res 2016; Jun 2:13-23.

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