When you hear the term vertigo, you might automatically think of an older popular movie that depicted it as the fear of heights. This is not an accurate description. The fear of heights is called acrophobia. Vertigo, however, is a type of dizziness that is known for a spinning sensation. You may feel like you or the things around you are spinning when there is actually no movement. It happens when there is a problem with the ear, sensory nerve pathway, or the brain. It can occur at any age but is most often seen in those age 65 or older. There are as many as 60 different medical and psychiatric conditions known for causing vertigo, along with certain medications.
Vertigo can vary depending on the person and what is causing it. It can come on suddenly and leave just as quickly, never to be experienced again. Or it can come on and last for quite some time. Persistent vertigo has been linked to mental health issues. A psychiatric problem can cause vertigo, or vertigo may be the underlying cause of depression or anxiety, as a person’s daily routine can be hugely impacted by it.
Vertigo gives one a false sense of movement. While it is considered a symptom itself, it can also have other symptoms that accompany it, such as:
- Balance issues and lightheadedness
- Tinnitus — ringing in the ears
- A feeling of congestion or fullness in the ears
- Nausea and vomiting
Vertigo does not make you feel as if you are going to faint, but rather it causes rotational dizziness.
There are two types of vertigo and they are categorized according to what the cause is.
- Peripheral vertigo: This happens when the balance organs of the inner ear become disturbed for some reason.
- Central vertigo: This occurs when the sensory nerve pathways of the brain become disrupted.
Let’s look at each one of these categories in depth and try to understand them better.
The labyrinth of the inner ear is made up of tiny organs that allow messages to be sent to the brain in response to gravity. These messages help the brain determine when there is movement from the vertical position. This is why, when you stand upright, you do not immediately lose your balance and fall.
If something disturbs the function of this system, vertigo ensues. It can be due to inflammation that has come about because of a viral infection. The following conditions are connected with peripheral vertigo:
- Vestibular Neuronitis: An inflammation of the vestibular nerve because of a viral infection.
- Labyrinthitis: An inflammation of the inner ear labyrinth and vestibular nerve usually due to a viral infection. This nerve has the important job of relaying the motion of the body and its position to the brain.
- Meniere’s disease: Thought to be the result of a build-up of fluid in the inner ear, it is known for vertigo, tinnitus, and gradual hearing loss. It is most known to affect people in the age range of 40 to 60 years. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that 615,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with this condition. It may be the result of blood vessel constriction, an autoimmune reaction, or a viral infection.
- Cholesteatoma: A skin growth that happens in the middle ear resulting, usually, from a repeated infection. If it becomes too large, it can cause hearing loss, dizziness, and damage to the ear.
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): This is the most common form of vertigo and is thought to come from a disturbance in the otolith particles. These are tiny crystals of calcium carbonate in the inner ear fluid that pull on sensory hair cells during movement and stimulate the vestibular nerve which, in turn, sends signals to about the body’s position to the brain. When you have BPPV, endolymph fluid continues to move even when your head has quit moving. It usually impacts older people and the cause is unknown. It is twice as common in women than in men. It may occur after:
- A trauma to the head
- Ear surgery
- Prolonged bed rest
- Vertebrobasilar ischemia
This is connected to a problem within the central nervous system. It involves a disturbance in:
- The brainstem and cerebellum — the areas of the brain that handle interaction between the senses of balance and vision
- Sensory messages to and from the thalamus
Migraines are the most common form of central vertigo. As many as 40 percent of those experiencing migraines have vertigo with them.
Uncommon reasons for central vertigo include:
- Tumor in the cerebellar brain
- Acoustic neuroma
- Multiple sclerosis
Finding Relief for Vertigo Through Natural Means
A link has been established between a misaligned bone in the upper cervical spine and the onset of vertigo. A few of the reasons mentioned above for vertigo were trauma to the head and problems with the brainstem. Either of these can be linked back to a misaligned C1 or C2 vertebra. If these bones move out of position due to a car accident, a trip and fall, or any number of things that impact the head and neck, it can easily lead to vertigo. Upper cervical chiropractors have been specially trained to find the location of the misalignment and then work to correct it without the need to pop or crack the spine. We employ a gentle method that helps the bones to naturally realign themselves, leading to a longer-lasting adjustment. Most people report great improvement in their vertigo symptoms. Some even see it go away and not return.