The Differences Between Peripheral Vertigo and Central Vertigo


Vertigo is such a common symptom that the medical community has broken it down into different categories based on the part of the body where the symptoms stem from. In our article, we will discuss the differences between peripheral vertigo and central vertigo, including where the symptoms find their genesis, what conditions cause each type of vertigo, and how you may be able to find natural relief regardless of type of vertigo you have. 

Let’s begin our discussion with the more common of the two types of vertigo.

What Is Peripheral Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo is related to causes located in the ear. It makes sense that vertigo is often the result of ear problems. The inner ear detects balance and spatial orientation for the body. The vestibular nerve (also known as the eighth cranial nerve) sends those signals to the brain for processing, where they combine with other sensory information from the body. If anything throws off this delicate system, vertigo may be the result. 

What Causes Peripheral Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo can be related to a number of diseases. For example, if you have a cold or the flu, it can cause inflammation that ends up leading to vertigo. If the inflammation occurs in the inner ear, it is called labyrinthitis. If the swelling is in the vestibular nerve, it is called vestibular neuritis. In both of these cases, the swelling (and ensuing vertigo) usually clears up within a couple of weeks of the end of the virus. 

Here are a couple of other causes of peripheral vertigo that lead to problems on a more chronic basis.

  • Meniere’s disease – Meniere’s is a vestibular condition that often affects just one ear, at least early on. In this case, severe vertigo is often what sends a person to the doctor since bouts usually last at least 20 minutes and can extend all day. A feeling of fullness in the affected ear, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and partial hearing loss are other symptoms a patient will experience. Tinnitus and hearing loss are the symptoms that increase the most as the condition progresses. 
  • BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) – BPPV (sometimes shortened to positional vertigo) refers to vertigo that is triggered by changes in head position. This can occur when tiny crystals found in the inner ear canals break loose. However, some doctors use this diagnosis as a catchall when the underlying cause of vertigo is unknown. Therefore, this has become the most common diagnosis for vertigo, and it makes peripheral vertigo far more common than central.  

What Is Central Vertigo

Central vertigo relates to causes found in the central nervous system (CNS). This is the processing side of how the body determines balance and spatial orientation. With central vertigo, the body may be receiving the correct sensory data but failing to interpret it accurately. Vertigo is just one possible result. 

What Causes Central Vertigo?  

Central vertigo may actually be far more common than researchers estimate. What are some of the possible causes of this type of vertigo?

  • Head injuries – Post-concussion syndrome can lead to the onset of vertigo. However, even if you didn’t sustain a concussion, vertigo may still begin in the weeks or months following head or neck trauma.
  • Migraines – Migraines are one of the most common ailments in the US, with 39 million Americans getting them. Since some researchers have found that up to 40% of migraineurs have vertigo as a symptom, this becomes one of the most common causes of vertigo.
  • MS – Multiple sclerosis is another neurological disorder that has vertigo as a symptom. 

Add this to the fact that other vertigo causes include brain tumors, strokes, and other less common conditions, and you end up with quite a few reasons to suspect a CNS cause for vertigo. Don’t forget that medications may also cause vertigo as a side effect, and this cause can be either central or peripheral depending on where the medicine is making an unwanted impact. 

Finding Natural Relief from Central Vertigo and Peripheral Vertigo 

If you are living with chronic bouts of vertigo, then it is time to do something about it. How can you stop the false sensations of movement and get yourself firmly rooted again? The key may be to find an underlying factor that can affect both the ears and the central nervous system. This means looking toward the neck.

When the top bones in the neck become misaligned, this can lead to changes in the surrounding soft tissue that can affect both ear function and the CNS. Ear function may be impacted by changes that reduce how well the eustachian tubes work. If these tubes are not draining away excess fluid properly, vertigo is just one of the possible results. 

On the other hand, the C1 (top bone in the neck) surrounds the brainstem. So even a tiny misalignment can lead to pressure that causes misinterpretations of the sensory data coming to the brain from the ears and other parts of the body. Upper cervical misalignments can also restrict cerebral blood flow, further disrupting CNS activity.

An upper cervical chiropractor can help you to learn if you have such a misalignment. Precise measurements and gentle corrections can give your body the chance it needs to heal. For many patients, this has resulted in dramatic health improvements, including when it comes to finding vertigo relief.

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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.