Vertigo is a type of dizziness that experienced as a false sense of movement. A person experiencing a vertigo episode may feel like they are spinning or the environment around them is spinning. The term vertigo describes this specific sensation. It isn’t a diagnosis or condition in and of itself. Rather, vertigo is a symptom of many possible conditions.
Dizziness and vertigo are terms that are often, mistakenly, used interchangeably. Dizziness is a non-distinct way of describing what can be multiple, related sensations, including:
People who experience vertigo may also have other symptoms including nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ear, abnormal eye movements, headaches or migraines, neck pain, hearing changes, anxiety, and trouble with balance. Vertigo episodes can be quite incapacitating. Since they can come on suddenly, they have a large impact on day-to-day tasks like driving a car.
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Balance is your body’s ability to stay centered over your feet. When your sense of balance is working correctly, maintaining upright posture is something that is often taken for granted. However, when your body’s balance system is compromised, what normally happens to adjust your posture without thinking about it fails to occur.
The body maintains balance with input from three different systems:
The brainstem receives all of the information from these three sources. It is the part of the central nervous system where the brain and spinal cord form a junction.
When it comes to vertigo, one of the major players might actually be your neck. More specifically, the atlas (C1) vertebra that forms the connection between the head and neck has the important job of providing a ring of protection for the brainstem. When the atlas is in the proper position, it allows for a smooth, clear passageway for the brain to transition to the brainstem as it exits the skull and then your spinal cord continuing on below. It’s no secret that many vertigo sufferers have experienced some type of head or neck injury in their past, whether from an auto accident, sports injury, or simple slip and fall. Those people then went on to develop vertigo symptoms and, since months or even years elapsed before their onset, never made the connection between the two.
When a person sustains even a minor head or neck injury, the atlas has the distinct potential to misalign because it lacks features that the rest of the spine has to keep it stable. The atlas has no intervertebral discs to help absorb forces and it also lacks the locking facet joints that help to restrict movement in other areas of the spine. This makes the atlas very movable, which is necessary for head movement but also leaves it vulnerable to misaligning. With the atlas in an abnormal position, the brainstem can become irritated, creating a disruption in the way it can process balance signals.
Upper cervical chiropractic care is a subspecialty of the chiropractic profession that focuses on the critical area where the top of the spine and the skull connect. This area is completely different from the rest of the spine due to its shape and functions. The upper neck, or upper cervical spine, enjoys the most mobility out of any other spinal region. It is also one of the most complex areas, and upper cervical chiropractors will often have additional training and certifications in order to be proficient at adjusting this delicate area.
If you are struggling with any vertigo- inducing condition, consult with an upper cervical chiropractor in your community. This professional can help you connect the dots and provide you with the missing answers you’ve been seeking. We can help patients with BPPV, Meniere’s disease, post-concussion syndrome, mal de debarquement syndrome, migraines, or others.
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.