What exactly is vertigo? It is the sensation that you are spinning while the things around you are standing still or that you are standing still while the things around you appear to be spinning. In reality, there is no movement at all. Vertigo is usually connected to an inner ear problem.
Vertigo is often triggered when you move your head too fast or have it in a certain position. You may experience some or all of these symptoms:
- Feeling as if you are being pulled in one direction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Nystagmus — abnormal eye movements
- Tinnitus — ringing in the ears
- Hearing loss
Symptoms often last a few minutes to a few hours and may go away and return repeatedly.
Common Causes of Vertigo
Vertigo is not a condition but rather a symptom of a condition. The following conditions have vertigo as the main symptom:
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): BPPV occurs when tiny particles of calcium break off and form clumps in the canals of the inner ear. Since the inner ear is responsible for sending signals to the brain about head and body movements in relation to gravity, an interference with this process can cause major problems. This can cause you lose your balance. It is unknown why BPPV occurs, but it is possible age plays a role.
- Vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis: This is usually caused by a viral infection of the inner ear. The infection can cause the nerves of the inner ear to become inflamed, leading to interference with balance.
Rarely, vertigo may be associated with other health conditions:
- Head and neck injury
- Certain medications that cause ear damage
- Brain problems like strokes or tumors
Meniere’s Disease and Vertigo
One of the most common reasons for vertigo is due to Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is known for recurring episodes of disabling vertigo, intermittent hearing loss (especially in low tones), and tinnitus (ringing, roaring, buzzing or hissing noise in the ear).
Symptoms of Meniere’s include:
- Sudden attacks of severe, disabling vertigo
- Nausea and vomiting
- A feeling of fullness or congestion in the affected ear
- Intermittent hearing loss
To care for Meniere’s disease, doctors will often order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to help rule out any serious underlying conditions causing your problems. The most conservative way to care for this condition is to follow a low sodium diet and use a water pill (diuretic) to help lower the amount and intensity of attacks. This works by reducing the amount of fluid in the inner ear, thereby reducing fluid pressure.
Your family doctor may recommend drugs like meclizine or lorazepam to help alleviate symptoms of vertigo. These drugs do not prevent attacks.
Vestibular rehabilitation can sometimes help with the imbalance being dealt with. It works in a way to help retrain the brain and body to process information correctly, in turn allowing you to regain your confidence in the ability to move about.
There are ways to care for Meniere’s that involve more physical risks. One of these is called intratympanic gentamicin, and it works to destroy the vestibular tissue by means of injections into the ear of an antibiotic. Steroids have also been used and carry less of the risk of hearing loss and permanent imbalance.
It is theorized that Meniere’s disease is caused by an excessive amount of fluid that is built up in the inner ear. The fluid of the inner ear is held in what is called the endolymphatic sac. It is a pouch-like structure that allows the fluid to constantly be secreted and reabsorbed, keeping it at a stable level. For some reason, this system begins to malfunction and causes an increase in the production of this fluid or a decrease in how much is reabsorbed. It is unknown why this occurs. It most often affects people in the age range of 20 to 50 years.
Searching for Natural Answers for Vertigo
While research is constantly being done, the medical community has not come up with the answer yet as to how to help those with this condition. However, an alternative way of caring for vertigo is seeing much success in helping patients. It is called upper cervical chiropractic and is a rare and different form of chiropractic care. But does it work?
A study was conducted that observed 139 patients who had been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. Detailed case histories were taken initially, along with a spinal examination. Interestingly, each of these patients had an upper cervical subluxation (misalignment). They were all given adjustments tailored to their specific situation. After just one or two adjustments, 136 showed significant improvement, especially in relation to vertigo. They reported their vertigo reduced from an average of 8.5 to 1.4 on a scale in which 10 is the worst. Before the onset of vertigo, each of these participants recalled having some sort of trauma to the head or neck — car accidents, sporting accidents, or whiplash. This shows how a neck misalignment can lead to vertigo.
Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on making sure the top two bones of the neck are in proper alignment. If not, they can put pressure on the brainstem, causing it to send improper signals to the brain. If the brainstem relays a signal to the brain that the body is in motion when it is not, vertigo can occur. Another problem with a misalignment in this area is that it irritates the eustachian tube and can lead to the ears not draining properly or it can cause a lesion to grow on the eustachian tube. This can lead to vertigo and additional symptoms of Meniere’s disease.
Vertigo Causes Fort Collins CO
Here at Turning Point Spinal Care in Fort Collins, Colorado, we use a gentle method similar to that used in the above-mentioned study to encourage the bones to move back into place naturally, often alleviating the frustrating spinning sensation of vertigo.