You may have heard the term vertigo and wondered exactly what it is. Is it fear of heights as portrayed in a popular movie decades ago? Or is it feeling a little dizzy and off balance? Is there more to vertigo?
Vertigo, along with dizziness and disequilibrium, is among the most common reasons people visit their doctor. It is also one of the most common symptoms talked about during a doctor’s visit. These symptoms can come about due to either a central vestibular disorder (a problem with one or more of the parts of the central nervous system) or a peripheral vestibular disorder (a dysfunction of the balance organs of the inner ear).
Dizziness vs Vertigo vs Disequilibrium: How Are They Different?
Vertigo, disequilibrium, and dizziness are all linked by a similar cause, but they have different meanings. It is important to describe them accurately to your doctor to get the proper care.
- Dizziness: a sensation of lightheadedness, unsteadiness, or faintness
- Vertigo: the perception of movement of yourself or objects surrounding you, always with a rotational or spinning component
- Disequilibrium: unsteadiness or imbalance accompanied by spatial disorientation
Spatial disorientation is that feeling you get when you are watching a 3D movie and you momentarily feel as if you are falling or images are rushing past you. However, if you have vertigo frequently, this is a sign of a vestibular disorder. These episodes may only last a few seconds or may go for days on end.
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and vertigo download our complimentary e-book How to Naturally Relieve Vertigo without Drugs by clicking the image below.
The way your body keeps balance has to do with three different systems: your vision, your touch sensors in your feet, body, and spine (proprioception), and your inner ear (vestibular system). Sensory input from these three systems is processed in the brainstem, the communication highway of the body. Messages are then sent from the brainstem to the eyes to help maintain steady vision and to the muscles to help keep proper posture and balance. If your vestibular system is working properly, it will give the most accurate information regarding spatial orientation. When any of these systems begin to malfunction, problems ensue.
You can imagine it as a courtroom with two opposing sides both presenting information seeming to appear accurate. The vestibular system acts as the judge and must decide which side is right. If it is malfunctioning, it cannot do this job correctly. This is what causes such symptoms as dizziness, vertigo, and disequilibrium.
Why Vertigo and Other Vestibular System Issues May Occur
Most often, a malfunction in the vestibular system is due to an injury to the head or neck, the aging process, or a viral infection. Other things that contribute to this are other illnesses, genetics, and environmental factors. The following is a list of some of the reasons vestibular dysfunction happens:
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): This is when loose calcium crystals of the inner ear become lodged in the wrong part of the ear. This often happens due to a head injury or a degeneration of inner-ear hair cells because of aging.
- Cervicogenic dizziness: This is a type of clinical syndrome consisting of disequilibrium and disorientation occurring in patients who have neck problems because of cervical trauma, cervical arthritis, and other issues.
- Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis: Both of these conditions are inflammations brought about by a viral infection and resulting in damage to hearing and vestibular function.
- Meniere’s disease: Also called primary endolymphatic hydrops, this has to do with an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear. It is a disease that progresses and involves hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and a congested feeling in the inner ear, along with vertigo.
- Migraine associated vertigo (MAV): Known for head pain and dizziness or vertigo, MAV is also accompanied by motion intolerance, sensitivity to light and sound, ringing in the ears, spatial disorientation, and imbalance.
- Acoustic neuroma: A benign tumor growing on the vestibulocochlear nerve is to blame for acoustic neuroma.
- Autoimmune inner ear disease: The immune system dysfunctions and begins attacking the cells of the body affecting the ear with this condition. There are specific diagnoses with this condition, such as Cogan’s syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Wegener’s granulomatosis, systemic lupus, and many others.
- Cholesteatoma: This is a skin growth that occurs in the middle ear behind the eardrum.
- Mal de debarquement: This is a sensation of movement or rocking which occurs after you have been on a cruise at sea or some other type of travel.
- Otosclerosis: This is an abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear area which prevents structures in the inner and middle ear from working as they should.
- Ototoxicity: Exposure to certain medications or drugs that damage the hair cells of the ear results in ototoxicity.
Finding Relief for Vertigo and Other Vestibular Disorders
One of the main reasons for vertigo is a misaligned bone in the top part of the neck called the upper cervical spine. The bones causing the most issues are the C1 and C2 vertebrae. These bones are susceptible to misaligning because of their mobility and location. If they misalign, they put the brainstem under stress and cause it to send improper signals to the brain. If the brainstem tells the brain that the body is in motion when it is not, an attack of vertigo can occur.
To correct this problem, upper cervical chiropractors have been specifically trained to detect these small misalignments and then work to readjust the bone that is causing the issue. We use a low-force correction that does not require us to pop or crack the spine to get positive results. We encourage the bones to move back into place on their own, leading to a longer-lasting adjustment and less stress on the body. This has caused many patients to see relief from their dizzying symptoms of vertigo.
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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