Vertigo After a Head Injury: What Should You Do?

chiropractor for vertigo, atlas bone adjustment

Experiencing frequent vertigo after a head injury can be worrisome and might give you the impression that there is something life-threatening going on. So, how severe is this symptom? Does it call for emergency assistance, or do you only need help from professionals like a chiropractor for vertigo and receive atlas bone adjustment? Join us as we investigate vertigo episodes triggered by head trauma or injury.

Post-Traumatic Vertigo – How It Develops

Head trauma due to traumatic brain injuries, concussions, or whiplash is among the leading causes of vertigo in the younger population. Statistics note that while spinning sensations often affect aging adults, roughly 28 percent of young patients with a history of head trauma develop BPPV symptoms such as:

  • Experiencing spinning sensations when changing the position of the head abruptly
  • Feeling unsteady while walking or standing
  • Vomiting and feeling nauseous and lightheaded

This primarily happens because the C1 or C2 bones supporting the head and protecting some cranial nerves and the brainstem shift from their neutral position. The upper cervical subluxation impacts various functions such as:

  • Blood and cerebrospinal fluid drainage
  • Vestibulocochlear nerve and brainstem communication
  • Brainstem and brain communication

As a result, the brain gets tricked into sensing movements even when everything is perfectly still. It causes a spinning and dizzying sensation that could affect how you navigate your environment. 

Another factor that ties together all of the symptoms that can follow a head injury is inflammation. When damage occurs in the body, even minor damage, inflammation is the body’s response. Because of this, researchers are hoping to promote the term post-inflammatory brain syndrome to replace post-concussion syndrome since the later implies that only more serious injuries cause after effects like vertigo.

A Glimpse into the Vertigo Research

There have been several upper cervical chiropractic studies published that followed the outcomes of vertigo sufferers under care.  The results show a great deal of promise and tell us that there is no need to suffer needlessly or get stuck in a symptom-chasing cycle of various medications and therapies.

Study #1

The goal of this study was to take a look at the role of head and neck trauma as it relates to the onset of vertigo.  In this particular research study, 60 vertigo patients participated, 56 of whom could recall some type of head or neck injury. These injuries ranged from a simple slip and fall to more severe motor vehicle accidents.

All 60 people suffered with their vertigo symptoms anywhere from 1 to 27 years.  Many reported that they had "tried everything" in order to find relief, including neck exercises, medications, PT, acupuncture, and more.  Upon chiropractic examination, all 60 patients were found to have an upper cervical misalignment, also called subluxation.  A course of upper cervical chiropractic care began for each of the 60 patients.  The end result showed very positive outcomes. In conclusion, all 60 patients reported either an improvement or complete reversal in their condition.  Forty-eight of the 60 no longer had any symptoms of vertigo.  The remaining 12 showed a measurable improvement in the severity and/or frequency of their vertigo episodes.

Study #2

This study looked at patients suffering from one of the more common causes of severe vertigo: Meniere's disease. Meniere's sufferers can experience debilitating vertigo attacks, along with tinnitus, hearing loss, and the feeling of fullness in the ear.  Over 100 patients diagnosed with Meniere's disease underwent a period of upper cervical chiropractic care to address atlas subluxation that was interfering with normal brain-body communication.  At the end of only six weeks of care, vertigo, nausea and vomiting went down dramatically.  In short, improvements were made in 136 out of 139 patients, a success rate of nearly 98%.  This impacted whether these people were able to work, drive a car, maintain a positive marriage, and other benefits to quality of life.  Interestingly, it took an average of 15 years from the time of a recalled head or neck injury to the development of vertigo and other associated Meniere's disease symptoms.

Study #3

During this study, researchers hypothesized that upper cervical subluxation resulting from whiplash injury to the neck was the root cause of vertigo and Meniere's disease.  Patients rated the severity of their vertigo on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being symptom-free and 10 being the worst imaginable.  Before upper cervical adjustments, vertigo averaged 8.5.  For reference, at a rating of 5 or above, people reported an inability to perform basic functions such as socializing, driving a car, or going to work.  After a six-week period of care, the average went down from 8.5 to 3.  At the conclusion of the study, the average was all the way down to 0.8.  These results led to a significant improvement for 291 of the 300 patients.

A growing body of evidence tells that upper cervical chiropractic care can be a revolutionary approach for people experiencing vertigo.  At Besso Clinic, we understand the factors that can be contributing to vertigo-causing conditions.  If an upper cervical problem is an underlying issue, then we restore your body's normal function.  Contact us for a complimentary consultation to find out more about how we can help.

Other Potential Causes of Vertigo After a Head Injury

Every case of spinning attack after head trauma is different. Notably, some patients detect shaking or spinning motions in their surroundings even when there isn't any movement. On the one hand, others experience false body motions, which also causes involuntary eye jerking and loss of balance.

Besides BPPV, other vertigo-causing problems can certainly arise from a mild or severe head injury. Some examples of these include:

Vestibular migraines 

Vestibular migraines often follow after a concussion. Sometimes, it can last for a few weeks or extend up to five years, depending on the level of damage on the vestibulocochlear nerve.

Blood pressure fluctuations 

Head trauma from injuries like TBI and concussions can cause blood pressure fluctuations. This is because the damage impairs the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary activities like blood pressure regulation.

Nerve pinching in the neck 

Apart from supporting the head, the neck performs another critical function – holding cranial nerves that regulate various body functions. Unfortunately, during accidents that cause neck or head trauma, the neck bones shift from their place and pinch on some nerve roots. This leads to various symptoms, including recurring vertigo episodes. It’s also one of the main reasons why people come to a chiropractor for vertigo for help.

Partial cerebellum or occipital lobe damage

Each area of the brain controls a specific function. For example, the cerebellum takes charge of perceiving motion and balance. Meanwhile, the occipital lobe regulates eye movements and processes visual stimuli. Unfortunately, head trauma can cause partial damage to these brain parts, triggering all sorts of health mishaps ranging from loss of balance to spinning attacks.

chiropractor for vertigo, atlas bone adjustment

How to Cope with Post-traumatic Vertigo

Finding lasting and effective relief from vertigo attacks doesn’t come easy. That’s because you need to consider many things like the root cause of your attacks and the impact of your previous head injury. However, below are some popular methods used by patients to overcome post-traumatic vertigo attacks:

Atlas bone adjustment 

Many case studies prove that minor adjustments to the atlas and axis bones after a traumatic head or neck injury can address recurring spinning episodes. In a 2006 study, 60 patients got diagnosed with a chronic form of vertigo episodes due to an upper cervical trauma.

After receiving adjustments for one to six months, 48 reported complete resolution of their vertigo while the rest noted decreased frequency and severity of their symptoms.

The Epley maneuver  

If your vertigo symptoms stem from BPPV, you can try the Epley Maneuver to restore the dislodged calcium crystals in their former location in the inner ears. This can potentially reduce the spinning sensations you experience when moving your head. 

Habituation exercises 

Some patients who experience lightheadedness or false motions try doing habituation exercises. These exercises aim to build up tolerance against spinning attacks. This way, the spinning sensations will no longer affect you as badly as before.

Exertional and balance training 

If you have seen improvements in your symptoms, some therapists and doctors recommend doing exertional and balance training to build up your stamina gradually. It helps your brain heal faster too, because the exercises allow the damaged neural connections to rewire themselves slowly.

Other Key Facts About Vertigo that You Must Know

Vertigo and Dizziness Aren't the Same Thing

This gets confusing because vertigo is usually classified as a type of dizziness. So while all vertigo is dizziness, not all dizziness is vertigo. On the other hand, dizziness is a layman’s term and not a real medical term. In other words, vertigo, lightheadedness, disequilibrium, and the many other symptoms that we often call dizziness should really just be called by their medical term so your doctor understands what symptoms you are actually experiencing.

With that in mind, we should define it so you know that you are researching the right topic. Vertigo refers to a false sensation of movement. And to crush another myth: no, it is not always a spinning feeling. It can be a spinning, swaying, tilting, or any other sensation of movement that isn’t really happening.

Vertigo Is Not a Condition on Its Own

Vertigo is a symptom of a number of conditions. That is why it is such a common problem. However, it is not a condition on its own. Perhaps the reason for the confusion in this regard is that most people who get vertigo are diagnosed with BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo). However, the majority of people with BPPV never find out the underlying cause, so the vertigo seems to be unrelated to any other health condition or problem. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult to find treatment.

Vertigo Can Sometimes Stem from Other Conditions Apart from Inner Ear Problems

There are actually two categories of vertigo, peripheral and central. Peripheral is considered the more common type and is related to problems in the ear. Central vertigo refers to cases that find their genesis in the central nervous system. Since the brain has to interpret the signals coming from the ear, it makes sense that a problem in the CNS could also lead to false sensations of motion. Remember too that in many cases of BPPV (a form of peripheral vertigo), the underlying cause is never discovered. Therefore, it cannot be said with absolute certainty that the issue is always in the ear and not the nervous system.

It Is Not a Fear of Heights

The medical term for fear of heights is acrophobia. Perhaps people confuse the two because of a classic film called Vertigo, wherein the main character has a fear of heights. Also, extreme anxiety can trigger vertigo. Therefore, a person who has a fear of heights may experience vertigo when high up. However, the stress is just triggering an episode. It is not the underlying cause.

It Is Not Just a Part of Getting Older

The causes of vertigo all stem from the central nervous system or the ears. You’ll notice that getting older doesn’t fall into either of those categories. There are plenty of hardships that come along with aging. Vertigo is more common as we age because we are more likely to have a condition that is causing it. Finding out what the condition is and correcting it is vital.

Vertigo Is Not Always Chronic

While most of the conditions that cause it are ongoing without medical care, there are a few causes of vertigo that go away on their own within a few weeks. If you have a condition such as a cold or the flu, you may find that attacks ensue in the following weeks. This is because the illness resulted in inflammation of the inner ear (labyrinthitis) or the vestibular nerve (vestibular neuritis). Either way, the attacks should stop a couple of weeks after the illness clears up.

It Is Not Always “Non-life-threatening”

Vertigo itself is never going to be anyone’s cause of death. However, it can be a sign of an emergency medical condition like a stroke or heart attack. Also, falls as a result of vertigo can quickly become fatal, especially for the elderly. So don’t let anyone tell that finding the cause of your vertigo is unimportant. Finding out what is wrong and getting it taken care of now may even save your life. Also, if your vertigo episodes occur right after a traumatic accident, you seek urgent care to rule out other serious problems.

Working with a Chiropractor for Vertigo to Find Lasting Relief

Getting rid of your vertigo symptoms after a head injury will involve solving the underlying cause – cervical subluxation. With an atlas bone adjustment, you can potentially relieve the pressure on your brainstem and the rest of your central nervous system.

Upper cervical chiropractic is a unique and holistic approach to addressing post-traumatic vertigo symptoms. It’s a subspecialty of chiropractic care that focuses on adjusting the C1 and C2 bones to fix the neck bone’s abnormalities. Using digital imaging techniques, a chiropractor for vertigo can gauge the extent of the bone shifting to determine how many adjustments you will need to receive and how long the procedure should last.

It’s a proven technique that patients from all over the USA use to manage their spinning symptoms. It’s also useful for various age groups, providing good resolution to a debilitating problem that can heavily impact day-to-day routines.

Learn more about how you can benefit from getting an atlas bone adjustment by scheduling a visit to an upper cervical chiropractic practice near you.

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