Can upper cervical adjustments help dizziness and vertigo problems?
If you are still looking for a solution for your dizziness and vertigo problems, I want to share with you some very important information that may be able to help you.
First of all, three questions:
- How difficult has it been to find an answer for your dizziness and vertigo problems? Have you been to all the “dizziness and vertigo specialists” in Brisbane but still not gotten any relief? If you have already done the diet, done the neck-over-the-table procedure (called the Epley Manoeuvre), done all the exercises, had all the tests and taken all the medications but still nothing has worked, I can appreciate how frustrating it is. In this article I won’t be making you any false promises. What I will be doing instead is providing you valuable information so that you can decide if you are willing to try a different approach.
- How has dizziness and vertigo problems affected your life? Dizziness and vertigo problems have a range of severity from minor annoyances to completely disrupting. Some people it affects them only when doing certain activities like standing up or lying down. Nevertheless, when an episode strikes, how difficult has it made for you to do or enjoy the things that you really want in life? Your ability to work? Your ability to spend time with your spouse. With your friends or family? … More than anything else, you simply want to feel your normal self again: to get your life back.
- WHAT WOULD YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE IF DIZZINESS AND VERTIGO PROBLEMS WHERE NO LONGER IN YOUR LIFE? It is a very important question. Dizziness and vertigo problems are not simply manifestations of the mind, but believe me, your ability to see beyond your current symptoms - your ability to identify as a human being not limited by your current condition - is critical if you ever hope to be well.
So what does your life look like without dizziness and vertigo problems? What does that mean for your ability to work? To earn an income? To take care of your family? To enjoy your time with your family? To enjoy time with your exercise, recreation or hobbies?
I appreciate that this third question can be especially hard if you have been dealing with dizziness and vertigo problems for a long time - been to all the dizziness and vertigo specialists - but still dealing with the problems. It is the reason why, in this article now, I want to share with you something you may never heard or before.
It is how the alignment of the top bones in your neck, the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2), have a powerful impact that affects your nervous system, your brain’s ability to communicate with your body, and your body’s ability to heal from things like dizziness and vertigo problems.
What I want to share with you is how a unique brand of chiropractic - a completely different style than you have probably ever heard of known as Blair Upper Cervical care may be able to help you.
You see, IF the three questions above make sense and resonate with you, it is because we are no stranger to dizziness and vertigo problems. At our North Lakes chiropractic centre, we care for people every day who experience dizziness and vertigo problems. So we know the challenges, the frustrations, the hopes … but most importantly, we’ve learned ways that we can help make a difference.
So if you would like to learn more about this approach called upper cervical chiropractic Brisbane, please read on.
How to “read" common dizziness and vertigo problems
I’d first like to clarify on the difference between dizziness and vertigo problems.
- Dizziness is the sensation that you are moving even though you are not
- Vertigo is the sensation that the world is moving even though it is not
It is possible to experience both symptoms at the same time, or one without the other. Dizziness and vertigo problems also come in a variety of “flavours” from a mild annoyance that lasts only a couple of seconds if you stand up too quickly to completely disabling with brain fog, inability to concentration, poor memory, etc.
Dizziness and vertigo problems are often attributed to a variety of potential causes:
- Benign Proxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), which dizziness and vertigo specialists say is caused by crystals floating in the inner ear
- Meniere’s Disease, which is said to be caused by fluid accumulation in the inner ear and should be treated with diet (i.e., no caffeine, no alcohol, low salt, etc)
- Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS or MdBS), which is dizziness that is worst when standing but goes away when in a moving vehicle and/or lying down typically
- Vestibular Neuritis, which is attributed to a virus affected the vestibular nerve
The thing about many of these syndromes is that they are not diagnosed by any specific test! They are only diagnosed based on the type of symptom that you experience. In other words, dizziness and vertigo problems - no matter what you call them - may have similar underlying causes.
What is the cause of dizziness and vertigo problems
There are three major parts of the body that can produce dizziness or vertigo problems: 1) the inner ear (called the vestibular apparatus); 2) the eyes and 3) the nerve receptors in the neck and the jaw.
Let’s look at the inner ear and eyes first. The pathways in the brain that coordinate your balance require visual and equilibrium information from these two major sources. It is the reason if you spin in a circle enough times you will feel dizzy and/or vertigo. This is what many dizziness and vertigo specialists look at with MRIs: to find out if you have a lesion on your brain that is affecting your inner ear or your eyes
However, if you have had these tests already, odds are that the report came back saying that “everything is normal.”
AND CLEARLY IT IS NOT!
So we need to consider instead that dizziness and vertigo problems are not always pathological conditions that you can surgically remove. Instead, dizziness and vertigo problems may be functional problems, which means that your brain is processing abnormal information.
Think of it like a computer virus: invisible to the eye, but something that can wreck havoc! Similarly, your brain is a supercomputer that processes information … but a breakdown in the normal information can produce many issues including dizziness and vertigo problems.
There may be a few potential reasons for this:
- Blood flow is not getting to your brain. Perhaps you have had a specialist test looking at blood flow - and maybe everything looked okay - but let me ask you: did you have the test performed sitting/standing up or lying down? And when do you experience your symptoms most? It’s possible that you can have the test that comes back as “normal” when it is, in fact, not.
- Fluid is not circulating properly around your brain. Within your head is a substance known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which circulates oxygen and energy for your brain. A disruption to this flow may produce micro-currents or eddies that you may detect as abnormal, internal motion (such as with dizziness or Mal de Debarquement syndrome).
- Nerve information is not processes correctly. Think of it like static on a radio. If the balance-sensing parts of your brain are bombarded with abnormal information, it can be more than enough to produce the sensation of dizziness or vertigo.
So we want to consider the parts of the body that have nerve receptors that go to the parts of the brain that process balance information. And the #1 most important source of input comes from the joints in your upper neck.
What to do about dizziness and vertigo problems
Your upper neck contains four very important suboccipital muscles that are essential for maintaining the balance of your head and brain atop your neck. These particular muscles have the greatest density of nerve endings anywhere in the spine that are involved with balance.
I personally believe that these muscles may be the key for solving dizziness and vertigo problems. To illustrate, let’s look back at that procedure I mentioned earlier called the Epley’s manoevre. Simply by positioning the head at different angles, for many people it improves their dizziness and vertigo problems. Other people it makes them worse.
I personally do not believe that this action resets crystals in the inner ear. Instead, what I see is a procedure that helps improve mobility of the joints in the upper neck. And that by fixing the problem the symptoms go away!
Now, you may have researched and tried this procedure yourself but found that it did not work. Or that it even make the dizziness and vertigo problem worse. Here’s a potential reason why. The joints in your neck that are supported by these suboccipital muscles are designed to move. Through physical injuries or even repetitive stresses, it is possible for these joints to lock up abnormally. When they do so, the nerves in the muscles will start to fire, telling your brain that things are stuck in a weird position.
Under normal circumstances, your brain will be able to make changes that will fix the problem on its own. However, there are certain types of injuries where these misalignments will not be fixed on their own. In chiropractic, these problems are known as subluxations. It isn’t a fracture or a dislocation, but it is an injury that your body just can’t quite fix on its own.
So unlike a basic misalignment that can go back into alignment on their own - like stretching or doing exercises (e.g., Epley’s manoevre), when things are subluxated it is going to take a different approach to resolve the issue.
Most common reasons adults have dizziness and vertigo problems
Often, dizziness and vertigo problems are attributed to old age. I disagree. The youngest person I have seen who experienced severe dizziness and vertigo troubles was under 20 years old! I’ve also seen people in their 80s with no dizziness or vertigo problems at all!
So there must be something else going on.
As I mentioned before, if dizziness and vertigo problems are coming from the upper neck, the usual cause is a physical injury. The thing about it is that the symptoms very rarely start all at once. It’s because we aren’t dealing with a major injury that injures your spinal cord and disrupts the flow of nerve activity by 30% all at once. If that was the case, you would realise that there was a problem right away!
Instead, a subluxation of the alignment of the joints in your neck metaphorically affect the flow of nerve activity by only 2% … barely even noticeable. The problem, however, is compound interest.
That 2% goes up by another 2% for every year that the problem is not addressed. So in the beginning, you feel fine and mistakenly presume that you are well. After 5 years, things have added up to 10%, and you notice some stiffness creeping into your neck that you mistakenly attribute to “getting older.” After 10 years, things have added up to 20%, but you deceive yourself by thinking it will go away. So you do a few treatments and try some medication, which seems to solve the problem (for now).
But then after 15 years, you arrive at the 30% threshold where the dizziness and vertigo problems begin. Now the old strategies of just treating the symptoms don’w work anymore! And you can’t figure out what’s going on because you never though to realise that the dizziness and vertigo problems you are dealing with now are the result of a physical injury that happened so long ago because you “felt fine afterwards.”
Most common reasons children have dizziness and vertigo problems
So what are seam fo the common injuries that can lead to dizziness and vertigo problems?
Dr Michael Burcon, upper cervical chiropractor and researcher on Meniere’s disease finds a common attribute for people with dizziness and vertigo, and that is a whiplash-type injury that occurred 10-20 years before the onset of symptoms. (He also finds a 97% success rate using the same Blair upper cervical procedure procedure that we use in our Brisbane atlas chiropractor office in North Lakes.
A whiplash injury doesn’t always have to be caused b a car accident, but is anything where your neck and skull suddenly snap backwards and forwards.
So I want to draw your attention to all the things that happen when you were growing up that could have led to the current problem:
- Car accidents, roller coasters, and bungee jumping - anything where your head definitely does snap back-and-forth
- Rock concerts - banging your head can produce a 40kph strain on your neck
- Sports injuries - includes concussions, tackles, and anything where you landed hard on the ground
I must add the many potential injuries that happen when a child is learning to walk, run, and ride a bike can also cause dizziness and vertigo problems later in life. Balance problems in dancers, gymnasts, or just general clumsiness can all be signs that the motor-equilibrium system of the brain is not developing as it should.
It is also possible that the injury could stem from a birthing injury itself: e.g., forceps, vacuum, breech, Caesarian or prolonged labour.
When you start to think back this far, if you are normal you’ll be thinking not just of yourself but also of your own kids. As we talked about in the beginning, we know how awful the sensation of dizziness and vertigo are. We also know that IF you knew what you knew now - and IF you could have prevented the same challenged for yourself that you would have done so.
So let me raise this very important point for your consideration: have your own kids been checked for upper neck health so that they don’t have to go on and suffer dizziness and vertigo problems like you later in life?
Now, that’s just for your consideration. Let’s get back first then to what we may be able to offer to help you.
Diagnostic for dizziness and vertigo problems
When it comes to dizziness and vertigo problems, it is important to rule out the dangerous and scary stuff like brain tumours, infections, bleeding, etc. THIS INVOLVES HAVING A BRAIN MRI. In our experience, only 1-5% of people have those types of problems anyway.
Now is where many people get lost. It’s because they are told that “You just have to live with it,” or “Just take this medication and you’ll be fine,” or “Just do these exercises and give it more time.
IF THE DIZZINESS AND VERTIGO PROBLEM DOES NOT SHOW ANY SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT WITHIN 6-12 WEEKS, THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON.
Often, when people come to our North Lakes chiropractic office, they’ve already been everywhere else … when really they should have come here first!
Full disclosure: we are not true “dizziness or vertigo specialists,” and we don’t treat the symptoms either! Our focus is on the alignment of the upper neck - the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2) - because, as we said earlier those two bones have a profound impact on the health of your nervous system. They can affect blood flow to your brain. They can affect circulation of CSF in your brain. And they can affect the nerve information that your brain receives about balance.
So what we do is focus on restoring the motion and alignment of those top two bones for the purpose of taking pressure off of your nervous system and allowing your body to do what it is supposed to do. And funny that, when you correct the atlas alignment and the upper neck, many of these dizziness and vertigo problems go away on their own!!
So what the process involves is a detailed analysis of the structure and alignment of your upper neck. To do this, we perform a series of physical and neurological tests including paraspinal infrared thermography, which is an important measure of nerve function in your neck. What we also perform are a series of 3D x-rays, which show the alignment of your neck from angles not seen with normal x-rays, CTs or MRIs.
As a result, we are able to do two things:
- We can identify and diagnose problems with your neck that no one has diagnosed before; and
- We design a procedure and a care plan that is personalised for you in order to help restore alignment and mobility through your neck, and allow your nervous system to function at its more optimum.
Upper cervical chiropractic treatment for dizziness and vertigo problems
You may be wondering, “How is this different from what a general chiropractor or a vestibular physiotherapist would do?”
Foremost, there is no spinal manipulation. NO CRACKING. The procedure that we use - when we custom-tailor or design the adjustment for you - provides very specific information for your brain that does not require much force to make major changes in the body. The procedure itself uses about the same amount of force you would use to take your pulse.
It is this customised adjustment that is also different from what a physiotherapist may prescribe. you see, when we know the exact direction that your upper neck has misaligned, we can prescribe you personalised stretches and activities to avoid … because they aren’t the same for everyone!
Your condition is unique! And when we understand the additional details that are required when we perform the specialised diagnostic tests that we do in our North Lakes chiropractor practice, that is often what makes all the difference.
And that includes for people who have “been everywhere else, but nothing has worked.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about the outcome. You’re either getting it with what you’re doing or you aren’t. We aren’t going to make you any silly guarantees, but we do expect you’ve found value in this information here that there may be an important approach to dizziness and vertigo treatment that you have NOT tried. And one that makes sense!
If you have found value with this information and if it resonates with you, we’d like to offer you an opportunity to have a conversation and see if we may be able to help you. We are the only Brisbane chiropractor office that provides this unique form known as Blair upper cervical care. Our North Lakes chiropractor office is located just off the Bruce Highway to service the Sunshine Coast and greater Brisbane area.
Please feel free to reach us at 07 3188 9329, or send us an email to schedule a consultation.
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/
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
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