Vertigo A Chiropractic Perspective
Episodes of vertigo and/or dizzy spells occur at some point in most people's lives. Although both result in a sensation of unsteadiness, each is experienced differently.
Patients suffering from dizziness often say, “My head is spinning,” whereas a patient suffering from vertigo says, “Everything is spinning around me.” Dizziness is debilitating in that it disrupts our sense of consciousness; we feel confusion or distraction. Vertigo can often be even more debilitating because it affects our bodily sense of balance and position in space.
Vertigo impedes a multitude of everyday tasks which require movement or quick thinking; such things as childcare, reading, and driving become extremely difficult or impossible. At this point, swift relief becomes an immediate concern and medical advice is sought. After your chiropractor rules out metabolic and neurological causes or changes in medication, chiropractic can be a safe, effective drug-free treatment. It is often the successful treatment following several unsatisfactory attempts with medications.
Balance is predominantly maintained by three processes in the body (1) coordination of the eyes and visual cortex of the brain (2) the vestibular function of the inner ear and (3) nerve endings in joints, muscles and tendons signaling information to the brain about orientation in space. This integration of information becomes increasingly necessary when the vestibular system is disrupted. If there is dysfunction or restriction of the cervical spine and/or muscle spasm, vertigo may be the result.
There are a couple of biomechanical features of the inner ear that can contribute to vertigo. The Eustachian tube equalizes inner ear pressure as it opens when we swallow or yawn. The inflammation and swelling of a sore throat or ear infection can obstruct opening of the tube, resulting in vertigo.
In the anatomy of the head and neck, there are muscles deep in the neck that share attachments and lie parallel to the Eustachian tube as well as have attachments to the ear drum. An upper cervical (neck) adjustment can open the tube and relax these muscles, thus allowing the inner ear pressure to equalize and restore a sense of balance.
Nerve endings in the joints, muscles and tendons which are specialized for sensing vibration, temperature, movement, muscle tone, etc. are damaged in injuries such as whiplash or repetitive trauma. These nerve endings are important for quick reflexes. Signals from these nerve endings orient us to our corresponding body parts in space.
For instance, if you raise your hand over your head, it is not necessary that you see it there or feel it with your other hand. Your hand has proprioception; that is, you know where it is without looking at it or touching it. A reduction of proprioception increases the incidence of falls and accidents. Most chiropractic treatment plans incorporate proprioceptive exercises which stimulate the muscles' reflexive response, thus decreasing the likelihood of debilitating accidents.
As this discussion illustrates, a short visit for chiropractic treatment can often prevent a tailspin of complications, disability and suffering resulting from episodes of dizziness or vertigo.