Vertigo is the unsettling and often debilitating sensation that the whole world is whirling around you even though you’re not moving at all.  It may also feel as if your body is spinning when it’s still. Across the population of the United States, it is estimated that 40% will experience some form of balance disorder or dizziness during their lifetime.  In addition to the false sensation of movement that vertigo sufferers experience, nausea and vomiting, balance difficulties, hearing problems, and abnormal eye movements can also add to the picture.

Understanding Vertigo Basics

The vestibular system is a key component of a person’s ability to navigate their surroundings.  When the vestibular system is operating correctly, it goes completely unnoticed. The body is able to make the necessary corrections in order to maintain its posture and sense of balance.  However, a vestibular system that is diseased or damaged can have devastating effects in the form of vertigo, nausea, vision changes, hearing deficits, and more. This can have a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to go about their day in a normal fashion.  Things, like driving a car, walking to the mailbox, meeting friends for a drink after work, or picking up children after school, can become difficult or even impossible for some vertigo sufferers.

There are many underlying causes of vertigo, and vertigo in and of itself is not a diagnosis.  Most cases of vertigo are caused by issues within the inner ear. For example, BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) occurs due to a displacement of calcium crystals that migrate into the fluid-filled canals of the inner ear and begin to disturb normal fluid movement and distort balance signals being sent to the brain.  Meniere’s disease is due to an abnormal fluid buildup within the inner ear, leading to intense vertigo episodes as well as tinnitus, fullness/pressure in the ear, and fluctuating hearing loss.

What Does the Research Say?

There is still a lot that remains to be fully understood when it comes to the mechanisms behind why vertigo develops, but there is a strong connection between a history of head or neck trauma and the eventual onset of vertigo.  Research conducted in the field of upper cervical chiropractic care has demonstrated a reliable, consistent connection between a misalignment of the craniocervical junction, which is the junction between the head and neck. The vertebra that is positioned here, the atlas, is the most freely movable one of the entire spinal column, and as such, can be the most vulnerable to misaligning as a result of injury.

Two studies we’d like to highlight here studied 139 and 300 patients respectively who were medically diagnosed with Meniere’s disease.  All of the patients were found to have an atlas misalignment and over 90% had a misalignment of a similar characteristic that would impact the affected ear.  After a thorough analysis, each of these people underwent a course of upper cervical chiropractic care designed to restore normal atlas alignment in hopes that their symptoms would be reduced or eliminated.

The results speak for themselves:

  • 136 of the 139 patients in one of the studies reported an absence or dramatic reduction in their symptoms, especially vertigo, after only one or two specific adjustments
  • On a scale of 0 to 10 (with 0 being symptom-free and 10 being the worst possible symptoms), the intensity of vertigo was reduced to 0.8/10 from 8.5/10 upon follow-up
  • 291 out of 300 patients (97%) reported a significant improvement that gave them back their ability to work, drive, and have a positive relationship with their spouse

How can Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Help with my Vertigo?

Within the chiropractic profession is a specialized niche that focuses its efforts on the vertebra that forms the connection between the head and neck.  The upper part of the neck, referred to as the upper cervical spine, is a complex and important part of the body and has a critical role to play for those living with vertigo and its related symptoms.  The atlas vertebra, or C1, plays several roles:

  • Balances the weight of the head atop two joints where the skull attaches
  • Has a broad range of motion in order to accommodate a variety of head movements
  • Provides a conduit through which the brainstem passes as it emerges from the opening at the base of the skull and protects this delicate part of the central nervous system
  • Transmits several important nerves, arteries, and veins that communicate between the brain and body

Atlas alignment can be negatively affected by experiencing an accident, injury, or simply by wear and tear that inevitably happens over time.  As the atlas shifts, it begins to cause a series of compensations throughout your body as it tries to keep your head balanced and your eyes level.  This can impact the vestibular system when flawed or distorted signals are sent to the brain as a result, which can lead to ongoing bouts of vertigo.

Upper cervical chiropractic care uses state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging, precise measuring, and customized adjustments that are tailored to each patient’s needs.  Correcting the position of the atlas in such a gentle, non-invasive way encourages the body’s natural healing process to occur more optimally and efficiently. Many vertigo sufferers have experienced remarkable results under upper cervical chiropractic care.  A consultation with a practitioner near you can help make the connection of whether an upper cervical issue is a contributing factor in the vertigo episodes you’re experiencing. If so, you may be a few gentle adjustments away from experiencing an improved quality of life!



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.

Burcon MT, Upper Cervical Specific Protocol and Results for 139 Patients with Medically Diagnosed Meniere’s Disease. J Vert Sublux Res 2010; Nov 14:1-10.

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