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  • Writer's pictureJerry Kennedy


Understanding Cervicogenic Vertigo

Vertigo is an extremely challenging and potentially debilitating condition that affects millions of Americans. While some experience intermittent and acute episodes of vertigo, others suffer with chronic spells of vertigo that are frequent and tremendously uncomfortable. Understanding vertigo is similar to understanding headaches; knowing what caused the onset of your vertigo condition is essential for receiving appropriate and effective care along with maximal recovery.Here we will briefly discuss vertigo symptoms, causes, the differences between children and adults, and the chiropractic treatment for cervicogenic vertigo.

Vertigo Symptoms

It is easy to confuse vertigo symptoms with other forms of dizziness. Vertigo symptoms are often described as a sensation of “the world spinning uncontrollably.” Often in the midst of a vertigo spell people will lay down on the floor in an attempt to alleviate the feeling of spinning or falling. This sensation is often accompanied by other vertigo symptoms including nausea, vomiting, sweating, and anxiety. These spells can last from seconds to minutes, and in extreme cases can cause loss of consciousness or “blackouts.” Depending on when and how vertigo symptoms come on, some people are at risk for falling and sustaining further injury. It is not uncommon for vertigo symptoms to occur in connection with other conditions such Meniere’s Disease, migraine headaches, concussion/mTBI, and more.

Vertigo Causes

Understanding the underlying cause of vertigo in your case is essential for timely and effective treatment. Vertigo causes are many and varied and can range from serious life-threatening conditions to benign treatable causes. In rare circumstances, more serious conditions such as tumors, infections, or neurological disorders may be the underlying cause of vertigo.

As a disorder of balance and equilibrium, vertigo causes can be traced back to a disharmony between the systems of the body that contribute to keeping your brain and body upright in space and time. The three main systems involved are:

  • Oculomotor - the movements of the eyes and their subsequent effect on balance

  • Vestibular – the inner ear and it’s mechanisms of balance and coordination

  • Proprioceptive – the effect of the joints and muscles of the spine on spatial awareness

Vertigo is commonly caused by a discrepancy in the coordination of these systems. In simple terms the body, brain, and eyes are working with conflicting information about your spatial awareness. Confusion about which was is up, down, left, or right sends your nervous system into a tailspin, ultimately resulting in the negative symptoms of vertigo.

So what exactly causes this discrepancy? There are many causes, but a very common and treatable cause is called cervicogenic vertigo. “Cervicogenic” simply means that the problem is coming from the cervical spine. The cervical spine is the neck region, and the upper cervical spine is the top portion of the spine at the junction between the head and the neck. It is in this area where cervicogenic vertigo arises, and conservative and effective treatments are readily available.

Trauma to the head and neck such as whiplash, sports injuries, slips and falls, concussions, and other stresses to the neck can produce a condition known as Atlas Displacement Complex (a.k.a. upper cervical subluxation). Atlas Displacement Complex includes two distinct processes:

  1. abnormal alignment and action of the segments at the top of the spine

  2. nervous system dysfunction

These two process compound to produce a variety of side effects by negatively affecting proprioception (spatial awareness). Cervicogenic vertigo occurs as a common secondary condition of Atlas Displacement Complex

What to do About Cervicogenic Vertigo

Conventional treatments for cervicogenic vertigo usually include pharmaceutical approaches focused on relieving symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Since cervicogenic vertigo is a structural problem, structural solutions are necessary to receive maximal recovery. To focus on the cervicogenic cause of vertigo, you should consult with a qualified upper cervical doctor if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have a history of head and neck trauma (sports injury, concussion, car accident, etc.)

  • You have 2+ spells of vertigo per month

  • You experience other side effects of Atlas Displacement Complex including neck stiffness/pain, pain between the shoulder blades, ringing in the ears, headaches/migraines, poor posture

If you meet these criteria or have explored other options without arriving at definitive answers,you are a candidate for NeuroStructural care. NeuroStructural chiropractic care is focused on addressing the underlying cause of cervicogenic vertigo which lies in the condition known as Atlas Displacement Complex. A NeuroStructural chiropractor will help to diagnose your spinal condition, develop a targeted treatment plan, and to provide a natural treatment option without twisting, popping, or cracking the spine. Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg is the only Doctor in Colorado Springs that currently practices in this focus.

Cervicogenic Vertigo in Adults

Vertigo in adults in most commonly associated with migraine headaches, BPPV, or cervicogenic dizziness. It is important to note that there are often multiple conditions with overlapping symptoms involved in adults suffering with vertigo. For example, it is common to have vertigo in combination with migraines and neck pain. These are all conditions that can be traced to a cause in neck dysfunction, and effectively treating the cervical spine can result in alleviation of many or all of these symptoms in certain individuals.

Cervicogenic Vertigo in Children

In children, vertigo symptoms are commonly caused by conditions such as ear infections, concussions, or severe fever/infection. It is important to understand the pertinent health history, mechanism of onset, and other key indicators for pediatric patients suffering with vertigo. Cervicogenic vertigo can also affect a pediatric population, and other conditions such as ear infections and poor posture have also been linked to cervical spine dysfunction.

Young athletes who participate in contact sports, have experienced on or more concussions, or suffer with post-concussion syndrome should be screened for Atlas Displacement Complex .

Chiropractic Diagnosis for Cervicogenic Vertigo

Chiropractic diagnosis in vertigo cases will be focused on identifying a cervicogenic cause. The process begins with a consultation to identifying risk factors for upper cervical subluxation, a complete health history, and understanding of associated signs and symptoms. Diagnostic testing will then be performed to measure structural displacements of the upper cervical spine, nerve system dysfunction, and other key indicators of cervicogenic issues such as postural imbalances, range of motion deficiencies, and balance and coordination issues.

This information serves as the basis for a comprehensive treatment plan focused on correcting the condition underlying cervicogenic vertigo, mainly Atlas Displacement Complex. Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg is uniquely trained to perform precision adjustments to the neck without the risks of aggressive manipulation.

Chiropractic Treatment for Cervicogenic Vertigo in Colorado Springs

If you or a loved one suffers with vertigo, you deserve to know if Atlas Displacement Complex is underlying your condition. To talk with Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg, simply request a complimentary consultation to find out if Zenith Chiropractic can help you regain your vertigo-free quality of life.

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