Take care of your dizziness without medicine or surgery
Is it TIME to do something different about your dizziness?
Have you had your ATLAS checked to see if it could be associated with your dizziness?
Dizziness can be one of the most disrupting and depressing things that any human being can experience. Disrupting because it feels like someone trying to pull you off balance all the time. Depressing because no matter what you do, you struggle to mentally block it out.
The sensation of dizziness of disequilibrium can come in many forms:
- Benign positional vertigo (BPV), which is dizziness or vertigo associated with head position and is believed by many to be the result of inner ear crystal
- Meniere’s Disease, which is dizziness or vertigo associated with a blocked ear feeling and ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Mal de Débarquement Syndrome, which is dizziness or vertigo that appears only when you are sitting or standing at rest … but strangely disappears when you are in a moving vehicle!
- Vestibular Neuritis (aka Labyrinthitis), which is inflammation of your inner ear organ and which is often attributed to a virus.
There are actually dozens of potential names for your dizziness. In fact, you can see dozens of dizziness specialists simply to find out the name of your condition! To be frank, I do not believe that the fancy name is really that important.
What I believe is MOST important when it comes to dizziness is IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE OF YOUR DIZZINESS (whatever the name is!) and then DOING THE RIGHT COURSE OF TREATMENT THAT HELPS TO CORRECT THE CAUSE, and not just treat the symptoms.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Now, I’m not going to be so stupid to diagnose your condition in this article, and I am not going to be so vain to promise you that I can definitely help you with your dizziness … who knows!
Instead, what I DO want to do in this article is share with you valuable information about THE ROLE OF YOUR UPPER NECK IN DIZZINESS, and how a different approach to healthcare may be able to help you.
What does my neck have to do with dizziness?
If you’ve been dealing with dizziness for a long time (or even just a short while), you’ve probably done your research to find out what you can do to fix this horrible sensation!
You’ve likely tried or at least read about the common medical approaches with dizziness specialists, which include medication (Stematil or Cerc, which are anti-motion sickness drugs), vestibular physiotherapy (who often use something called the Epley Manoeuvre to reposition the crystals in the inner ear), and so forth.
In brief, you’ve discovered all types of therapies that focus on your inner ear.
However, what you may NOT have discovered is that your sense of balance is affected by multiple parts of your body! Your inner ear is only one of them! The three major sources of balance input into your brain are as follow:
- Your inner ear
- Your eyes
- Your upper neck
So why your upper neck?
In order for your brain to function properly, it requires that your eyes and brainstem remain orientated with the level horizon. In other words, your head needs to be looking straight ahead.. It is called the vestibular or visual-righting reflex.
The muscles in the upper part of your neck (called suboccipital muscles between your skull and the top vertebrae in your neck, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2)) contain a huge amount of nerve receptors that detect balance and position sense called proprioceptors.
PROPRIOCEPTION IS YOUR BODY-to-BRAIN SENSE OF BALANCE. It is how you can normally walk in a straight line with your eyes closed without tripping or stumbling over your feet.
You may be familiar with your trapezius or “trap” muscle that is located between your neck and shoulder blades. Studies have shown that your trap muscle contains about 2 proprioceptors per gram of muscle. In contrast, your suboccipital muscles at the base of your skull contain 100-200 proprioceptors per gram of muscle.
That is 50-100x more nerve receptors!
There is no other known muscle in your spine (or elsewhere in your body) that contains that density of proprioceptors. So by understanding just a little anatomy, we discover that there is something special about the architecture of your upper neck and that somehow your brain must use these nerve receptors as a way of maintaining your sense of balance.
Dizziness and Subluxation
There are many types of physical injuries that can affect your spine. The nastiest is a fracture (aka broken bone). Then a dislocation, which is a complete misalignment with a complete ligament tear. These types of injuries are unstable and require an orthopedic specialist or surgeon to fix.
The next level down is called a subluxation, which is a partial misalignment with variable degrees of ligament damage. From a medical perspective, a subluxation in the upper neck also requires surgery to stabilize (Google search the term “Atlanto-axial subluxation” if you need to confirm).
However, what Google does NOT tell you clearly is that there are actually three degrees of subluxation:
- Grade III Subluxation = partial joint misalignment with complete ligament tear = unstable -requires surgery (this is the one the Google talks about)
- Grade II Subluxation = partial joint misalignment with minor ligament tear = stable - assuming no complications, can often be managed WITHOUT surgery
- Grade I Subluxation = partial joint misalignment with stretching but no tear = stable - assuming no complications, can be managed WITHOUT SURGERY
So what does this have to do with your dizziness? (Hang with me, it will all make sense in a moment).
A Grade III subluxation is something clearly visible on x-rays, CTs or MRIs because the damage is that big. However, Grade I and II subluxations are often so small (millimeters) that unless you have very precise imaging done - and your dizziness specialist and the radiologist are especially sharp looking for these types of misalignments - THEY OFTEN GO UNDIAGNOSED.
In other words, YOU CAN STILL HAVE A PHYSICAL INJURY TO YOUR UPPER NECK EVEN IF THE MEDICAL REPORT SAYS “NORMAL” or “NO PATHOLOGY DETECTED.”
That can truly be one of the most FRUSTRATING parts when dealing with dizziness is going to so many dizziness specialists but only having all your tests come back as “normal.” Well, this may be one possible reason why!
So what does it mean if you have one of these Grades I or II subluxations? It means that there is a physical problem with the normal alignment and motion of the joints in your upper neck. And remember how the muscles in your upper neck are especially dense for proprioceptors or “balance” nerve receptors?
So what do you suppose would happen IF you brain was receiving ABNORMAL information about your nerve position sense. BINGO! Your brain can detect and “feel” these imbalances, which could possibly explain your feelings of dizziness!
It is what is known as a “cervicogenic dizziness” or “cervicogenic vertigo.”
Dizziness that is originating from your neck!
In our experience, it is one of the most under-considered and most important possible diagnoses when you experience dizziness.
Can something so small be such a big problem with dizziness?
When is the last time you had a pebble in your shoe? How small is a pebble? 10mm? If you let it rub against your foot, how much pain can that cause?
Or when is the last time you had a splinter in your finger? Or a paper cut? How thick is a splinter or cut? 1-3mm? How much pain did that cause?
Or consider a virus - including something like a coronavirus!. THAT was something smaller than a single blood cell that stopped the whole world! How much pain, anxiety, and uncertainty did THAT cause!?
So my point is that SIZE does NOT matter when it is in just the right (or wrong) place in your body!
So if we’re talking about a tiny misalignment in your upper neck - even 1-3mm - that may have the potential to affect the transmission of vital nerve and balance information to your brain.
The flip of that is if you consider what could happen by DISCOVERING these types of misalignments in your upper neck.
- Do you think that it would be better IF you do have one of these misalignments that it WASN’T there affecting your brain and balance system?
- Do you think it could be possible that by getting these misalignments properly addressed and corrected that it could help support and improve your dizziness?
- And do you think that if you could improve your dizziness that you could enjoy your normal life again without the disruptions and depression that can come from struggling just to keep yourself upright?
- Truly consider it, what would your life look like if dizziness was no longer a part of it? What would you be able to enjoy again?
We believe that every human being has the inborn potential to live an amazing life, and our mission is to support people in their health and wellbeing to enjoy the liberty and freedom that they so greatly desire.
So if there is anything we may be able to do to help you with your dizziness, we would be honored to assist.
A different approach for helping people who experience dizziness
At the beginning of this article, we asked the question, “Have you had your ATLAS checked if it could be related to your dizziness?”:
Your atlas is another name for the C1 vertebra in your neck. It is the one that protects your brainstem and attaches to those muscles that are so important for your sense of balance. It also contains arteries and veins that supply blood to-and-from your balance processing centers in your brainstem.
(So that could be yet another potential explanation for how a misalignment or Grade I subluxation with your atlas could be related to your dizziness.)
There are many therapists who work with the upper neck including chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and musculoskeletal dizziness specialists. However, there is a different approach and unique focus with something you may not have heard about before called an “upper cervical chiropractor.”
This is NOT the same as spinal manipulation, and there is NO twisting or cracking the neck. So what is upper cervical care then?
Upper cervical or Atlas care is a separate division of chiropractic that has been researched and developed in America to focus on the alignment of the upper neck and its potential impact on your brainstem and nerve system.
Upper cervical chiropractors have long observed and believed that misalignments (aka subluxation) of the upper neck can have a direct impact on the neurological functions of the body, which control and coordinate everything … sense of balance and dizziness included.
Therefore, by correcting these misalignments, we are able to restore normal function and communication between the brain and body so that it is able to do what it is naturally designed to do: repair and heal.
When healing occurs, we also see people over a period of time recover from dizziness and other conditions where nothing else had been able to help them. It is NOT to even suggest that upper cervical care is a treatment or guarantee to fix dizziness.
It doesn’t work that it. How it works is by recognizing that there is an innate healing force in your body, and if just given the chance, you can have a much greater potential for a healthy life.
Upper cervical care and dizziness treatment
The first step in upper cervical care is determining if you have a misalignment of the vertebrae in your upper neck. The way that we discover it is by performing a series of physical and neurological tests and then taking a series of precision 3D x-rays which allow us to see those 1-3mm misalignments in the neck that are not seen with routine images (even MRIs).
From there, we can measure the exact size, degree, and direction of misalignment so that the procedure we use can be done to restore the alignment and motion WITHOUT needing to use any twisting or cracking movements.
In fact, the amount of pressure with a Blair upper cervical adjustment (which is the style that we use) is only what you would use to feel your pulse.
Specificity to your unique needs is the key.
We also then make a recommendation of care (because healing takes time) in which we expect to see positive improvements with your condition. So again, even though we aren’t treating the symptoms of your dizziness direct, we do expect to see positive changes within a relatively short period of time (usually 6-12 weeks).
So what is the next step?
Our office, Atlas Health, is the premier upper cervical specific healthcare center in Brisbane. Our principal chiropractor, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, is a Board Certified Advanced Blair practitioner, international lecturer and author, who has dedicated over 13 years towards the practice of upper cervical care.
So if this article has been helpful and if it resonates with you, then we’d like to hear from you! Dr. Hannah would like to speak with you personally where he can hear your case and answer any personal questions you may have. We know that with dizziness, every person’s condition is unique.
And so before making any commitments, we’d simply like to give you the opportunity to discuss your situation with Dr. Hannah so that you can devise if care is right for you.
To schedule a 15-minute no-obligation phone consultation, simply click the Contact Us link on this page or call us direct at our office, 07 3188 9329.
We look forward to hearing from you, and it will be our privilege to assist you with your healthcare goals.
Atlas Health Australia - “Give, love and serve.”
Armstrong BS, McNair PJ, Williams M. Head and neck position sense in whiplash patients and healthy individuals and the effect of the craniocervical 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/
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. A quantitative study of muscle spindles in the suboccipital muscles of human fetuses. 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
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