am i-just-dizzy-is-it-vertigoAlthough vertigo is a fairly common condition, because its symptoms are difficult to put into words it can go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.  Having a better understanding of how to identify and describe symptoms can help to separate a bout of vertigo with dizziness that is caused by other issues.  Not everyone with dizziness has vertigo, and not everyone with vertigo experiences it as feeling dizzy.  We have probably all had the experience of spinning around and around as a child then stopping suddenly – this is a way to temporarily produce vertigo symptoms which makes it feel like the room is still spinning when in fact you and your environment are still.  

Differentiating Between Vertigo and Dizziness

The word “dizzy” can be a catch-all term for many different symptoms, including:

  • Vertigo – the false sensation of spinning or whirling of either yourself or your surroundings.
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded, which could be related to a drop in blood pressure.
  • Dizziness caused by breathing too rapidly, such as hyperventilation or anxiety.
  • Unsteadiness or imbalance – disequilibrium can occur when either still or moving.

When talking to your healthcare providers about how you are feeling, it is important to be as specific as possible when describing your symptoms.  Treatment approaches, as well as possible causes, can vary based on what exactly is going on.  When someone complains of dizziness, vertigo is responsible for only about half of cases.

Five Lesser-Known Facts about Vertigo and Dizziness

  1. Dehydration can make you feel dizzy – inadequate hydration can cause a drop in blood pressure, which can be a contributing factor in dizziness.  
  2. Vertigo and dizziness can be a side-effect of some medications – if you are experiencing episodes of vertigo or dizziness, check your medications for listed side-effects like dizziness, vertigo, or loss of balance and speak to your physician about the possibility of decreasing dosages or changing drugs.
  3. Migraines can sometimes cause vertigo – approximately 40% of people who have migraines also experience attacks of vertigo or dizziness.
  4. Your inner ear might be to blame – the inner ear can be the cause of one of the most common sources of vertigo – BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo).  Calcium crystals that are typically embedded in the inner ear may become dislodged and migrate into the canals of your inner ear.  Because the inner ear contains sensors and nerves that relay information to the brain about your body’s balance and position, the dislodged crystals can disturb these signals leading to vertigo.
  5. A cruise or sleeping on a waterbed can cause dizziness – it’s a common experience to feel dizzy and unsteady on your feet disembarking from a cruise or other boat ride.  This condition is known as mal de debarquement, and in some cases can linger for months or even years.

Natural Approach to Vertigo Care Gaining Traction

Very few treatment options have been able to provide consistent, lasting results for vertigo sufferers.  Medications, diuretics, low-sodium diets and other therapies may have some successes, but results are often temporary.  To understand how to accomplish better outcomes for vertigo sufferers, an understanding of how your body maintains its sense of balance is necessary.  Balance is achieved by a complex system of control that includes:

  • Your vision (sight)
  • Proprioception (touch)
  • The vestibular system (senses motion and spatial orientation, responsible for equilibrium)

All three of these sources send information to the brain over a network of nerves and the brain sends back the appropriate response in order to keep your balance.  An impairment in any of these components can influence how well your body can maintain its sense of balance and can result in vertigo or other disorders that cause dizziness.

Because the nervous system is such a critical component of maintaining balance appropriately, it must also be working properly in order to avoid ongoing vertigo episodes.  Upper cervical chiropractic care has been seeing such encouraging results with vertigo patients for this reason.  We focus on a very particular area of the spine, the atlas and axis, and how it can influence the ability of your nervous system to send and receive signals optimally.  The part of the central nervous system that integrates and sorts sensory information from the three factors above is the brainstem.  The reason we focus on the atlas and axis vertebrae (the upper cervical spine) is that they protect the brainstem.  If there is a misalignment of the upper cervical spine, it can hinder the proper processing of sensory information.  Another factor that many people may not realize is how closely the upper cervical spine sits with respect to the eustachian tube and inner ear.  This is an often-overlooked root cause of vertigo that we help our patients to correct.

An atlas misalignment can happen in several ways, including injuries (sports, car accident, slip and fall, etc.), or repetitive wear and tear.  Many vertigo sufferers have a history of some type of injury, and the surprising part can be that many years can pass between the initial incident and the onset of vertigo, making it difficult to link the two.  The aim of upper cervical chiropractic care is to make a detailed analysis of the upper cervical spine to see if it is contributing to your condition.  If there is a misalignment there, precise and gentle adjustments are given to restore normal alignment.  The intent is for these adjustments to hold in place for as long as possible, giving your body much needed time to heal and to allow for normal brain-body communication to return.  This is how we are able to accomplish lasting, natural results without the worry of harmful side-effects.