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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.

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 the 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 centres 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 proxysmal 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 the vertigo in the first place. Because if we can figure out what is causing the 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 balance 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 specialised 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 centres 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 correctly 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 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 customised and specific correction.

The procedure first involves a spinal assessment looking at patterns of muscle tension though your body that reveal 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 identity that there is a problem with your neck affecting your nervous system, we then take a specialised series of upright x-rays that reveal the exact direction and degree of misalignment within just a few millimetres.

Have you ever had a splinter in your finger? If so, how big do you suppose the splinter was? Maybe a millimetre! 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 personalised 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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You Can See the Neck Misalignment North Lakes

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Aug 22, 2016

 

“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 (the 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 myself 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 there 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 andToowoomba). 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."

 

References

Armstrong BS, McNair PJ, Williams M. Head and neck position sense in whiplash patients and healthy individuals and the effect of the cranio-cervical flexion action. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2005 Aug;20(7):675-84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15963617

Boyd-Clark LC, Briggs CA, Galea MP. Muscle spindle distribution, morphology, and density in longus colli and multifidus muscles of the cervical spine. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2002 Apr 1;27(7):694-701. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11923661

Burcon MT. Health Outcomes Following Cervical Specific Protocol in 300 Patients with Meniere’s Followed Over Six Years. Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research ~ June 2, 2016 ~ Pages 13-23. https://www.vertebralsubluxationresearch.com/2016/06/02/health-outcomes-following-cervical-specific-protocol-in-300-patients-with-menieres-followed-over-six-years/

Du HG1, Wei H, Huang MZ, et al. [Randomized controlled trial on manipulation for the treatment of cervical vertigo of high flow velocity type]. [Article in Chinese]. Zhongguo Gu Shang. 2010 Mar;23(3):212-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20415082

Grgić V. [Cervicogenic proprioceptive vertigo: etiopathogenesis, clinical manifestations, diagnosis and therapy with special emphasis on manual therapy]. [Article in Croatian] Lijec Vjesn. 2006 Sep-Oct;128(9-10):288-95. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17128668

Kulkarni V, Chandy MJ, Babu KS. Quantitative study of muscle spindles in suboccipital muscles of human foetuses. Neurol Indfa, 2001;49(4):355-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11799407

Ndetan H, Hawk C, Sekhon VK, Chiusano M. The Role of Chiropractic Care in the Treatment of Dizziness or Balance Disorders: Analysis of National Health Interview Survey Data. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2016 Apr;21(2):138-42. doi: 10.1177/2156587215604974. Epub 2015 Sep 11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26362851

Peng B. Cervical Vertigo: Historical Reviews and Advances. World Neurosurg. 2018 Jan;109:347-350. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.10.063. Epub 2017 Oct 20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29061460

Ravn JH, Fuglsang R, Højland C, Hauvik M. The effect of the sympathetic nervous system on proprioception of the neck. Aalborg University. Project supervised by Deborah Falla and Shellie Boudreau. 2009. Date of submission: 1/5/2010. http://vbn.aau.dk/files/19025476/Projekt_3.0_F_RDIG.pdf

Thompson-Harvey A, Hain TC. Symptoms in cervical vertigo. Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2018 Nov 28;4(1):109-115. doi: 10.1002/lio2.227. eCollection 2019 Feb. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30828627

Yang L, Chen J, Yang C, et al. Cervical Intervertebral Disc Degeneration Contributes to Dizziness: A Clinical and Immunohistochemical Study. World Neurosurg. 2018 Nov;119:e686-e693. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2018.07.243. Epub 2018 Aug 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30092465



Yang L, Yang C, Pang X, et al. Mechanoreceptors in diseased cervical intervertebral disc and vertigo. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2017 Apr 15;42(8):540-546. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27438387

Yang G, Li YN, Wang N, et al [Blade needle treatment improves cervicogenic dizziness by increasing blood flow of vertebral basilar artery]. [Article in Chinese] Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2019 Jul 25;44(7):512-5. doi: 10.13702/j.1000-0607.180536. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31368283

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