Vertigo is the false sensation of movement or spinning. For example, if you are sitting down and not moving, but you feel as though you are moving or spinning, or you feel as if the environment around you is moving or spinning, you are experiencing vertigo. Vertigo is disorienting and can result in nausea from the spinning sensation, but it is usually not life-threatening. It can be dangerous, however, when someone is driving a car or in a situation where they might fall, like standing on a ladder.
What’s the Difference Between Vertigo and Dizziness?
People often confuse vertigo and dizziness. The word dizziness is often used to express a variety of disoriented sensations such as the following:
- Feeling like you’re about to faint
- Feeling woozy or lightheaded
- Feeling off-balance
According to Dr. Diego Kaski, neuro-otologist at London’s Charing Cross hospital, vertigo is different from dizziness in that vertigo has the false sensation of movement. The brain recognizes movement through signals sent from the eyes, inner ears, and receptors that sense body movement in the neck, arms, and legs. If you are experiencing vertigo, the signals from these areas of the body are being interpreted in the brain as movement, but there actually is no movement.
What Makes Vertigo Occur?
There are quite a few conditions that have vertigo as a symptom. In fact, some medications have vertigo as a symptom. If you recently started a new medication or new dosage level, check the information on that medication to see if vertigo is listed as a side effect. Two other causes to consider are described below:
BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): BPPV occurs when tiny calcium crystals that form in the inner ear become dislodged from their original location and travel into another part of the inner ear where they don’t belong. The crystals interfere with the body’s perception of movement and balance. Vertigo that occurs due to BPPV often happens after a sudden change of head position such as rolling over in bed or picking something up off the floor.
A migraine: About 10% of migraine episodes have vertigo as a symptom. People who experience vertigo with their migraines are often more sensitive to light, noise, and odors. Caring for this type of vertigo is similar to caring for migraines in that you need to identify and avoid triggers.
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and vertigo download our complimentary e-book.
What Else Can Cause Vertigo?
Meniere’s disease, a condition in which excess fluid builds up in the inner ear, has vertigo as one of its main symptoms. Other conditions that may cause vertigo are as follows:
- Vestibular neuritis
- Acoustic neuromas (benign growths on the inner ear nerve)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Head injuries
- Brain tumors
Vertigo Care and Treatments
Because vertigo can be caused by so many different conditions, treatment options vary depending on what is causing the vertigo. If you have vertigo due to an inner ear infection, a certain amount of rest is beneficial because it helps your body fight the infection. But staying in bed too long prevents your brain from re-evaluating the mixed signals that it’s getting. Getting up and moving around can actually help alleviate the vertigo faster than staying in bed.
BPPV can be alleviated by certain movements of the head to try to move the calcium crystals out of the fluid filled canals and help the brain re-establish its sense of balance. The Epley maneuver or Brandt-Daroff exercises are best performed by a doctor since trying to do them yourself while experiencing vertigo could prove difficult.
A Simple Solution for Vertigo
The underlying cause of many vertigo cases is actually a misaligned upper cervical spine. The top two vertebrae of the neck, the C1 and C2, misalign more easily than the other vertebrae in the spine. This is due to their unique shape and function. They provide a great deal of mobility for the head to turn and look all around. They don’t have the interlocking features that the other vertebrae do, but this is what enables them to be so freely moveable. Unfortunately, that range of motion means that they can more easily get stuck in a misaligned position. Incidents such as a sports collision, whiplash from being rear-ended, or even slipping and falling can cause the C1 and C2 to shift from their proper alignment. When this happens, there are several ways that vertigo can develop.
One way that vertigo can develop from a misaligned C1 and C2 is when the misalignment affects Eustachian tube. This has been seen in Meniere’s disease patients. Another way that vertigo can occur is from the C1 and C2 putting pressure on the brainstem, which travels through these vertebrae as it connects the spinal cord to the brain. Irritation and inflammation can distort the signals being sent to the brain via the brainstem. Since vertigo is the false sensation of movement, it makes sense that a mismatch in signals being sent to the brain from various parts of the body could result in a feeling of movement when there actually is none.
At Vital Life Wellness Center in Dublin, California, we consider your health history and do a careful examination of your spine to get to the bottom of your vertigo issue. If it is determined that you have a misalignment in your vertebrae, we use a gentle technique to shift them back into proper alignment. Patients are often surprised at how painless the technique is and how fast they start seeing positive health effects after their first correction. If you need help relieving your vertigo, call us today to schedule a consultation.
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If you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.