The term vertigo describes the sensation of false movement. People who experience vertigo attacks can feel as if they are moving or that the environment around them is moving. Not everyone that experiences a dizzy spell is having a vertigo attack, however. There are often other symptoms that accompany a vertigo episode, such as:
- Hearing changes
- Spatial disorientation
- Loss of balance
- Vision disturbances
- Nausea or vomiting
Vertigo can be incapacitating. Many sufferers report disruptions to their daily routines. Vertigo episodes can get in the way of your ability to drive a car, do your job, or care for your family. In order to understand how to best care for vertigo, knowing how your body maintains its sense of balance is key.
How Does My Body Know How to Balance?
Your body has a system, called the vestibular system, that helps to control how our body is positioned and how it maintains your center of mass over its base of support. Many of us take our ability to balance well for granted, but when we’re walking over uneven ground or have to change positions suddenly, there are many things that need to occur in order for this to happen properly. A vertigo episode can completely disturb this system, causing unsteadiness, vision problems, as well as difficulty with concentration and memory.
Your body’s ability to maintain its balance relies on information received by the brain from three main sources:
- Your vestibular system – made up of components of your inner ear, this system is responsible for maintaining your body’s equilibrium, spatial awareness, and motion.
- Sight – your vision gives your brain cues about how your body is positioned relative to your environment.
- Proprioception – proprioception is information delivered to your brain from your sense of touch. Your skin, muscles, and joints contain sensors that are sensitive to pressure or stretching. For example, during walking, sensors on the bottoms of your feet will tell your brain where your legs are positioned in order to maintain balance.
All of this information relies on clear nerve pathways in order to deliver accurate information to the brain. If these signals become confused somewhere along the line, then the brain can also become confused and this can result in vertigo or a loss of balance.
Vertigo and the Brainstem
There is one component to your body’s balance system that is central to keeping it running smoothly. That part is the brainstem. As your brain exits your skull and transitions into your spinal cord, that’s where the brainstem lies. It is a critical part of your body’s central nervous system. When it comes to vertigo, your brainstem is responsible for sorting out and integrating all of the information gained from your vestibular system, your eyesight, and your proprioception and generating the appropriate response in order to keep your balance.
Your brainstem, like the rest of your central nervous system, is so integral to your body’s ability to function that it is completely protected by bone. Your brain sits inside your skull, and your brainstem and spinal cord are surrounded by the vertebrae of your spine. Your brainstem is protected by two very unique vertebrae, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2), that make up your upper cervical spine. These vertebrae are shaped very differently than those that make up the rest of your spine because they need to hold your head up and provide for your head’s remarkable range of motion.
Typical Vertigo Treatment Options
As with any health condition, treatment options are based on your particular symptoms, health history, and a thorough examination. Depending on the particular cause of vertigo, it can be treated in various ways. Some of the most common options include:
- Canalith repositioning maneuvers: if your vertigo is a result of BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) than certain physical maneuvers can be performed in an attempt to relocate displaced calcium crystals back to their correct place in the inner ear.
- Dietary changes: people who suffer from Meniere’s disease have an excess buildup of fluid within the inner ear. Sometimes a low-sodium diet is recommended in hopes that a decrease in overall fluid retention will have a positive effect on the inner ear.
- Medications: commonly prescribed medications for vertigo include nerve suppressants such as diazepam, antihistamines, and anti-nausea drugs to mitigate various symptoms.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Brings Lasting Relief Naturally
There are many vertigo sufferers who are looking for a natural means of attaining relief. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of long-term medication use simply for symptomatic relief. Many vertigo sufferers are turning to upper cervical chiropractic care in order to address the underlying cause of their condition. Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on addressing misalignments of the uppermost vertebra in the spine, your atlas. Under normal conditions, the atlas is responsible for protecting your brainstem. Nearly every signal that travels between your brain and parts of your body in order to coordinate function pass through the brainstem. However, when the atlas misaligns due to accident, injury, or wear and tear, rather than providing protection it can actually prevent normal communication between the brain and body. The atlas vertebra also sits very close to the structures of the inner ear. When the atlas misaligns, it can disturb the Eustachian tube and prevent normal fluid drainage, which can lead to vertigo-causing conditions such as Meniere’s disease.
At Precision Spine Specialists, we take great care to thoroughly assess each of our patient’s upper cervical spine. Since this area is very complex and so important for overall body function, it requires a precise and delicate approach. If an upper cervical misalignment is present, it can certainly be the unaddressed, underlying cause of your condition. Using gentle adjustments, our goal is to guide the atlas back to normal alignment, relieving pressure on the brainstem and surrounding structures. Many of our vertigo patients report a reduction in the severity and/or frequency of their episodes, and others report that their condition has completely resolved.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Hall or Dr. Chalke call our Franklin office at 615-778-0887 or just click the button below.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com