Vertigo can be a totally debilitating thing to experience. You might suddenly find your world is whirling or that you are spinning out of control. This sensation can also lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, neck pain, hearing loss, and pressure in the ears. Vertigo, however, is not its own standalone condition. Rather, vertigo (the false sensation of motion), is a symptom of a cluster of disorders related to the vestibular system.
The vestibular system is consists of parts of the inner ear and brain. These communicate with each other via the nervous system to control your sense of balance. Disorders of the vestibular system can happen as a result of a head or neck injury. In addition, illness and environmental factors are possible culprits. One study found that approximately 69 million Americans have experienced some type of vestibular dysfunction. It has a significant impact on people’s quality of life. Many vertigo sufferers report that they aren’t consistently able to do things that they once enjoyed. This includes driving a car, engaging in their chosen sport or hobby, and having an active social/family life.
Your Guide to Common Vestibular Disorders and their Symptoms
Some of the most commonly diagnosed vertigo-causing conditions include:
BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo)
BPPV is the most common vertigo-causing condition. It occurs when otoconia, crystals that are in the inner ear, dislodge and then travel into the wrong canals. The presence of these crystals causes the inner ear to send false signals to the brain about the body’s balance. This leads to brief but intense bouts of vertigo. Someone may experience a BPPV episode when rolling over in bed or making a quick change in head position.
Vertigo is one of several symptoms that make up Meniere’s disease. An abnormal accumulation of fluid, called endolymph, in the inner ear, causes severe vertigo episodes in addition to tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss, and the sensation of fullness in the affected ear. Exactly why Meniere’s disease develops is still unclear, but theories on its cause include viral infection, autoimmune reaction, genetics, history of injury to the head or neck, circulatory problems, and migraines. Triggers that can bring on a Meniere’s attack include stress, too much salt intake, fatigue, pressure changes, and additional illness.
The labyrinth is the section of your inner ear that contains fluid-filled tubes and sacs which aid in both hearing and balance. Hearing function involves the cochlea, while the sense of balance involves the semicircular canals, utricle, and saccule. Signals concerning balance and hearing travel to the brainstem over the vestibulocochlear nerve (the 8th cranial nerve) to be processed and integrated. Due to infection, usually viral, the components of the labyrinth can become inflamed, interrupting normal function and causing vertigo and hearing changes.
Like labyrinthitis, the vestibular branch of the vestibulocochlear nerve can be inflamed. This results in vertigo and dizziness without the hearing issues associated with labyrinthitis. This condition may also be referred to as neuronitis.
Mal de debarquement
Mal de debarquement, which translates to sickness of disembarkment, causes ongoing vertigo after traveling by boat or ship. This condition occurs after other types of travel such as by car, train, or airplane. While it’s normal to experience the illusion of movement immediately after travel ends, affected individuals will experience this sensation for weeks, months, or even years after the event.
Migraines alone can be a disabling condition, but when it occurs with vertigo, it can be totally debilitating. Approximately 40% of migraine sufferers also have some type of vestibular dysfunction that can impair their balance and cause episodes of dizziness and vertigo. Vestibular symptoms might occur during the headache phase of migraine or can happen either before or after the headache subsides.
Vertigo and Your Neck: An Overlooked Key to Lasting Relief
One thing that many vertigo sufferers have in common is a history of head or neck injury. It’s no coincidence that vertigo-causing conditions often come along with headaches, migraines, and neck pain. Many people often miss it since the injury or accident that ultimately leads to the development of vertigo may have occurred years before the onset of vertigo. Dealing with this underlying cause falls in the wheelhouse of upper cervical chiropractors. Upper cervical chiropractic is a subspecialty of chiropractic care that focuses on the vertebra at the junction between the head and neck.
The atlas (C1) vertebra is distinct from all the other bones of the spine because it is the most freely movable and it bears the weight of the head. It is especially vulnerable to misaligning, and when it does, it can disrupt normal brainstem function. Since the brainstem is responsible for receiving and interpreting balance signals, an atlas misalignment can be a major contributing factor to ongoing vertigo episodes. Additionally, the atlas can directly influence the inner ear if it is out of the correct position, affecting normal function and fluid drainage.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic
When you visit an upper cervical chiropractor, you’ll notice several things that stand out. A detailed health history and chiropractic exam will take place in order to customize the appropriate care for each patient. Because upper cervical adjustments are so precise, they are very gentle and do not require a lot of force to achieve lasting results. By correcting and maintaining normal atlas alignment, your body’s natural healing abilities can take place as efficiently as possible, which can lead to the reduction in the severity and/or frequency of vertigo attacks, regardless of which condition you suffer from. To learn more about this key to finding sustainable relief, use the search function on our website to find a practitioner in your community.