Can upper cervical chiropractic help vertigo?

Posted in Balance Disorder on Nov 30, 2019

"I’ve tried everything for my vertigo, but nothing’s worked.” 

Unless you have experienced vertigo yourself, it is almost impossible to describe the sensation. Yes, spinning. Imbalance. Feeling like falling over or spinning in place even when you are lying down. But what I am referring to about vertigo is the complete inability to focus on anything else.

The complete sense of helplessness waiting for the attack to stop. The impossible task of just “blocking it out” The dread and anxiety of another attack happening again. It’s bad enough when you are at home, but then if you are out in public or in a car, that is even worse! The result is that your life becomes consumed by your condition.

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And again, unlike other things like headaches or back pain, vertigo is impossible to just block out! On the outside, you appear normal, but it can be hard for even your family who are with you the fully understand the horrible sensation you feel.… Does this sound familiar?

If so, you have probably tried all kinds of therapies looking for something - anything! - to help with vertigo,

Even if you feel like you’ve exhausted all your options, I want to be sure that you have not missed a very important piece of the vertigo puzzle: i.e., the alignment of your upper neck. And I also want to be sure that you know that you may have an option by correcting the alignment of the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae at the base of your head, and how this powerful approach may be able to help with your vertigo.

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"I’ve been to all the vertigo specialists, but they all think it’s something different. Why is that?”

Vertigo is what is known as a functional syndrome, which means that something is affecting the normal function of the balance and coordination centers of the brain. I contrast this with a pathological condition, which is something like a brain tumor, a bacterial infection, a broken bone, or something that you can see clearly on an MRI or CT scan.  Functional syndromes, on the other hand, are more like a computer virus. They have a profound impact on your system, but they aren’t discrete things that you can see and measure.

So when it comes to vertigo, we need to consider that rather than looking for a discrete thing, we need to identify a process that is affecting the way that your balance system is able to work. Because there is no discrete thing to identify, many vertigo specialists, therefore, rely on the nature of your symptoms to give your condition a name:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • Cervicogenic vertigo
  • Labyrinthitis (aka  Vestibualr neuriitis)
  • Vestibular migraine
  • Meniere’s Disease


And so forth. However, I want to illustrate a scenario that shows the limitations of this type of diagnostic process. Let’s say that you are playing a game where you are trying to describe a bird. “It’s a bird that flies and swims, and it makes a nasally “wak” noise when it talks.”  From this description, you are probably thinking of a duck. However, it could also be a goose. Or a swan. And even if it is a duck, what type of duck? 

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My point is that it is not always possible to accurately describe or diagnose a condition based on the description of the symptoms alone. If the condition was a pathological condition, maybe. But a functional syndrome is much harder, and often impossible when it comes to vertigo. Instead, when it comes to vertigo, our focus is not primarily in what we should call your condition as what is causing vertigo in the first place. Because if we can figure out what is causing vertigo, no matter what we call it, we may be able to help!

And the way that we look at vertigo is a different approach from so many vertigo specialists who focus on the inner ear. It is not to say that is not important - it is! However, there is often more going on that can cause vertigo coming from other parts of the body.


Namely, the upper neck. “How can my neck be causing my vertigo?” When it comes to balancing in the brain, there are three major players:

  1. The vestibular apparatus, which is your inner ear organ
  2. Your eyes, which maintain the level of your brain relative to the horizon
  3. Your body proprioceptors


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Proprioceptors are specialized sensory nerves that tell your brain where your body is in open space. It is how you can point to your nose with your eyes closed. It is also how you can feel a mosquito bite even without seeing it. When it comes to the density of proprioceptors, there are 4 particular areas of the body that are especially important:

  1. Your ankle, which needs to move properly for you to walk over uneven surfaces)
  2. Your pelvic joints (aka sacroiliac joints), which are the major weight-bearing joints of your body
  3. Your jaw joints
  4. Your upper neck involving the C1 and C2 vertebrae, which support the weight of your skull and protect your brainstem.


To illustrate, muscle spindles (a certain type of proprioceptor) are found in all muscles. The trapezius, which is the major muscle between your neck, head, shoulders, and back contains about 2 spindles per gram of tissue. The suboccipital muscles that support the position of your upper neck contain 100-250 spindles per gram! Your jaw and your upper cervical spine especially are significant. They have direct neuronal connections with the balance coordination centers of the brain.

Therefore, it is believed that is something affects the mechanical position and motion of the upper neck that is can send your brain an abnormal cascade of signals that it may interpret as imbalance, dizziness, or vertigo.

In your search for answers for vertigo, I hope that you have come across the work of Dr. Michael Burcon, who is what is known as a Blair Upper Cervical Specific chiropractor. For 20 years, he has researched and published his work that by correcting the alignment of the top bones in the neck - the C1 and C2 vertebrae - and also doing some supportive work for the lower neck that he has been able to achieve over 97% success rates in helping people with various forms of vertigo.

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(See the references at the bottom of this page for where you can find that vertigo resource to look for yourself). Thanks to Dr. Burcon’s research, there is genuine hope for people around the world who suffer vertigo: that there may be a natural solution, but not in the place where you might first think.


“What is a Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor?”

You may never have heard about a Blair upper cervical chiropractor before. If so, I am not surprised. In Australia, a country of 24 million people, there are estimated to be approximately 45,000 GPs, 25,000 GPs, 15,000 physiotherapists, and 4,000 chiropractors …


And a grand total of 3 certified Blair upper cervical chiropractors in the whole country!!

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(I will add that there are 3 other chiropractic doctors in Australia who have properly studied the Blair work and who have implemented the work in varying degrees in their own practices. I know this because I am actually a certified instructor for the Blair work and teach other chiropractic doctors how to do this work. In other words, I know every Blair doctor in Australia personally).

A Blair upper cervical doctor is a special division of chiropractic that focuses not on eh articular alignment of the vertebrae in the neck and their impact on your brainstem and the function of your nervous system. The method is named after the researcher, Dr. William Blair, who devised this unique system of analysis and spinal correction.

Rather than using spinal manipulation, a Blair upper cervical chiropractic doctor performs a series of detailed tests including 3D x-rays, which identify the unique condition of your spine in order to provide a customized and specific correction.

The procedure first involves a spinal assessment looking at patterns of muscle tension through your body that reveals areas of stress. Second, we perform a neurological scan in the form of infrared thermography as a way of assessing the function of the autonomic nervous system (i.e., if your body working as well as we would expect it to?). If we identify that there is a problem with your neck affecting your nervous system, we then take a specialized series of upright x-rays that reveal the exact direction and degree of misalignment within just a few millimeters.

Have you ever had a splinter in your finger? If so, how big do you suppose the splinter was? Maybe a millimeter! My point is that even small disruptions to the alignment of your upper neck -  if they affect your nerves just the wrong way - can cause signify ant neurological problems over time! That is the level of detail and precision that we use as Blair upper cervical doctors in order to identify what is going on.

With this information, we then know what we need to do in order to make a personalized correction for the alignment of your upper neck for the purpose of restoring normal function for your nervous system. That is the principle.

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“Can Blair upper cervical chiropractic help my vertigo” You may have noticed that I did NOT say that Blair upper cervical chiropractic TREATS vertigo. It is because it is not a treatment for vertigo.

“Treatment” implies two things: 1) that you are providing relief for an effect (vertigo). Instead, we are interested in correcting the cause and not simply masking the symptoms; 2) that you have the ability to control the exact outcome.

As much as we all want to control the health and function of the human body, the reality is that it is the innate wisdom of your own body that does the healing. 

Think of it from the perspective of a surgeon. If you are involved in a serious accident, a surgeon will mend the wounds, stop the bleeding and stitch together the broken pieces. But then after that, they have to wait and trust in your own body to do the rest of the healing.

Surgeons, more than any other profession, in my opinion, understand that in chiropractic we work the same way. As a Blair upper cervical chiropractor, our job is to correct the alignment of the upper neck, and then the healing that happens after that is up to your own body.

That said, when it comes to vertigo, there are still expectations that things will improve. Consider Dr. Burcon’s success rate again: 97% improvement!

In our own practice, by employing the same procedures and following similar protocols, we are also able to help a wide variety of people experiencing vertigo to improve the quality of their lives simply by correcting the alignment of their upper necks.

Can I guarantee it?  That would be most stupid of me to do so. The one promise that I do make is that I will always give you my best.

At this point then, I’d like to make an open invitation for you. In our practice in North Lakes, which provides upper cervical chiropractic Brisbane, we would like to have a chat with you. That way, if you or a loved one are experiencing vertigo, we can have an over-the-phone discussion to answer and questions you might have, and to get a sense if an assessment and care may be right for you.

This is a no-obligation, free consultation. Just call 07 3188 9329 or email us through the Contact Us link on this page to reach out to us and schedule a time.

At present, southeast Queensland is the hub for Blair upper cervical chiropractors in Australia, with me in North Brisbane at Atlas Health Australia, and then two of my colleagues on the Sunshine Coast. The challenge we face is that so many people with vertigo and other conditions need out help, and they're just aren’t enough of us around!

It is not uncommon for many of our own clients to travel 60-90 minutes in one direction from across Brisbane (even Ipswich, the north end of the Gold Coast and Toowoomba). It is also not uncommon for us to do intensive sessions for people who travel across or even interstate.

So whether you are in the local area of North Lakes, Mango Hil, Narangba, Griffin, or Burpengary or you are from as far away as Beenleigh, Indooroopilly, Everton Park, Samford or Dayboro, we are here to help you to the best of our ability. When it comes to vertigo, we believe there is hope. Atlas Health Australia  - “A passion and purpose for helping people get their lives back."



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