Although, often used interchangeably, dizziness and vertigo are two different conditions. Dizziness refers to a feeling of lightheadedness, weakness, or unsteadiness. The term vertigo refers to a false sense that either your body or the environment around you is moving. It may feel as if your body or the world around you is spinning, as if on a merry-go-round. Vertigo may also be accompanied by nausea or vomiting, ringing in the ears or sweating. Some people may even experience visual disturbances, difficulty walking or talking, or a feeling of reduced consciousness. Each episode can last from several minutes to several hours and can be constant or intermittent.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is the most common form of vertigo. This condition is characterized by brief episodes of intense dizziness associated with a change in the position of your head. It may occur when you move your head in a certain direction, lie down from an upright position, turn over in bed or sit up in the morning. Moving your head to look up also can bring about an episode. BPPV usually results from a problem with the nerves and the structures in your inner ear that sense movement and changes in the position of your head.
The Medical Approach to Vertigo
Commonly prescribed medications include the following:
- Meclizine hydrochloride (Antivert), an antibiotic
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Scopolamine transdermal patch
- Promethazine hydrochloride (Phenergan)
- Diazepam (Valium)
In the case of BPPV, your medical doctor may treat you with a series of movements known as the canalith repositioning procedure. You must avoid lying flat for 24 to 48 hours and elevate your head on a few pillows when you sleep. If the canalith repositioning procedure isn’t effective, your doctor may then recommend a surgical procedure in which a bone plug is used to block the portion of your inner ear that is causing the dizziness of vertigo. Often times, there is no medical diagnosis as to the cause of vertigo, and when medications are ineffective, many patients are told that they have to live with it.
The NUCCA Approach to Vertigo Relief
There is a growing body of medical literature detailing a possible trauma-induced (concussion, whiplash, etc.) etiology for vertigo, or at least as a contributing factor. In fact, researchers have pinpointed a mechanism for certain types of vertigo originating from neck dysfunction, also known as “cervicogenic vertigo”. According to medical literature, vertigo can be elicited by hyperactivity of vestibulospinal afferents caused by irritated joints in the upper neck. Since the cervical afferents assist in the coordination of the eye, head, and body, as well as spatial orientation and control of posture, a stimulation and/or lesion in these structures can produce vertigo. Following a trauma, vertigo disorders can be triggered immediately or they can take months or years to develop.
The NUCCA procedure focuses on correcting this trauma-induced upper neck injury, thereby reducing irritation to the nerves that trigger vertigo. While many of our patients who present with vertigo do recall specific traumas such as head injuries, auto accidents or falls, many do not. An upper cervical examination utilizing a supine leg check, anatometer measurements and specific upper cervical films are necessary in each individual’s case to assess whether an upper cervical injury is present and whether they might benefit from NUCCA care. Many of our patients find that the vertigo and its symptoms usually diminish within 7-30 days. Read testimonials from real patients on how NUCCA chiropractic has helped them!