What is Vertigo and how does Vertigo respond to upper cervical chiropractic treatment?

Posted in Head Pain Disorders on Oct 4, 2019

What is Vertigo and how does Vertigo respond to upper cervical chiropractic treatment?

Can vertigo be treated by a neck adjustment?

Is it possible for your vertigo to be coming from your neck and NOT just your inner ear?

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How FRUSTRATING has it been if you have not been able to find a solution for vertigo?

If you have been dealing with vertigo, you have probably googled “vertigo specialist Brisbane,” and you have probably been to see an ENT, a neurologist, and possibly also a vestibular physiotherapist. You’ve probably also had brain MRIs where they were looking for tumours or an infection or problems with your inner ear. 

If those tests came back as “normal,” you’ve probably been prescribed a few exercises or vertigo  medication, including to stay away from caffeine, alcohol and salt.

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But have these things actually been working? Or are you still dealing with the difficulties of vertigo?

If so, do you think it’s possible because there is actually something else going on?

When it comes to balance, dizziness and vertigo the centre of your brain that processes this information receive input from three primary sources:


  1.     Your inner ear organ (known as the vestibular apparatus)
  2.     Your eyes
  3.     The nerve receptors in your body, which are especially dense in your upper neck 

In other words, vertigo can from from any of these sources.

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… But has anyone actually looked at your neck as the possible cause of your vertigo?

If the answer is “no” … actually, even if the answer is “yes,” let me ask if you have had specific, detailed testing to assess how your neck could possibly be affecting your vertigo. And any  to help you get the best possible short and also long term results?

In this article, I’d like to introduce you to a unique form of healthcare - one that focuses on the relationship between your neck and your nervous system - and how this relationship is essential for your health and recovery from vertigo.

Difference between vertigo and dizziness symptoms.

There are many categories of vertigo: Meniere’s disease, vestibular neuritis (aka labyrinthitis), vestibular migraines, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), and so forth. Many of these conditions are diagnosed based on when you experience vertigo and if they occur at the same time as other symptoms.

When it comes to vertigo diagnosis, I am a bit of a contrarian in that I am not as interested in what name you give the condition as what the cause is. If you are reading this article, I anticipate you are also someone who is more interested in the cause of vertigo and what you can do about it as opposed to what name you want to call it.

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(IMO, you only give names to things that you want to stay in your life like pets or kids).

Now that we’re on the same page that we are interested in the causes of vertigo, I do want to make a brief distinction between the sensation of vertigo as opposed to the sensation of dizziness. Even though the same balance-processing centres of the brain are affected, the cause, in my experience is usually different. So let’s clarify the sensation.

  •    Vertigo is the sensation where the world is spinning around you. it can be so violent that you fall to the floor. It may or may not also be associated with nausea

  •    Dizziness is the sensation where you are spinning in the world. It can cause you to fall and lose your balance, but usually you are able to fight in order to stay upright … the problem is that it is exhausting!

And yes, it is possible to experience both vertigo and dizziness at the same time!

Why vertigo is not the same with dizziness?

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Let’s assume for a moment that the cause of vertigo is NOT because you have a brain tumour or infection or anything like that. If that is the case, you definitely - definitely - need to be under the care of a neurosurgeon. But if we can establish the the cause of your vertigo is not from your inner ear or your brain, then we can look instead that you vertigo is possibly coming from an external source: i.e., you brain is receiving faulty information from the nerve sensors on the outside.

Of particular interest are the nerve sensors in your neck. The muscles in the upper part of your neck and on the back of your skull are called suboccipital muscles. They contain an extremely dense array of receptors known as muscle spindle proprioceptors. These type of nerve receptors tell your brain where your body is in space relative to gravity.

For example, you should be able to point to your nose eve with your eyes closed because of feedback that these proprioceptors give you brain.

The reason that proprioceptors are do dense in your neck - specifically the upper part of your neck - is that they are what keep your head and brain level relative to gravity. In order for your brain to function properly - and in order for blood to flow smoothly in and out of your skull - your brain must be level at all times. So what happens is that based on the information that your brain receives, it will use your neck and your body to maintain the balance like a gyroscope.

It is a process known as the righting reflex.

So as it relates to vertigo or even dizziness for that matter, I would like you to consider the following possibility: what do you suppose would happen if the head righting reflex was NOT WORKING PROPERLY?

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Think of it like an electrical fault or a computer virus. You can’t necessarily see this stuff on an MRI scan … but it’s a process where your brain is not able to WORK properly. As a result, your head it not able to stay level relative to gravity. Do you suppose that this could affect your sense of balance?

You bet it can!

It has been my experience that vertigo is often attributed to a problem of blood flow either to or from the brain where it enters through the upper vertebrae in the neck. And dizziness is often attributed to a proprioceptor issue where signals going to the brain are mixed (e.g., If you were driving in a car and your GPS tells you to turn left-right at the same time.)

Of course, there may still be other things going on, and so this article is not meant to diagnose you. It is simply to raise a very important possibility … one that, if you have been dealing with vertigo for a long time but haven’t found answers may be worth considering.

So what kind of problem in the neck could create this breakdown in flow or communication? Here is where we will look next at the alignment of the top bones in your neck.

What is the most common vertigo symptom?

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The obvious most common vertigo symptom is the sensation that the world is spinning around you. However, there are several additional symptoms that can be associated with it:


    •    Headaches or even migraines (called a vestibular migraine)

    •    Nausea or abdominal discomfort

    •    The sensation of a “fluttering” heart, like a heart-racing even though it is a normal or only slightly elevated heartbeat

    •    Anxiety

    •    Tinnitus or ringing in the ears, or even a blocked ear feeling

    •    TMJ or jaw problems including clicking or grinding

    •    Sensitivity to loud noises (aka hyperacusis), and sometimes its polar opposite, deafness


So what does all of this potentially have to do with the bones in your neck?

The top bone in your neck is also known as your C1 or atlas, and it is responsible for supporting the weight of your skull and protecting your brainstem. The second bone in your neck is also known as you C2 or axis, and it is responsible for turning your head. The major arteries and veins that supply blood to your brainstem are called the vertebral arteries, and they transmit directly through the C1 and C2 vertebrae.

It is also worth mentioning that the suboccipital muscle anchor the C1 and C2 vertebrae onto the base of your skull as part of the head righting reflex. 

Under normal circumstances, these bones are designed to move in a way that does not impede the flow of blood to the brain, and in a way where the suboccipital muscles and their associated nerve endings transmit normal balance signals to your brain.

However, if for some reason either of these vertebrae are misaligned - even couple of millimetres off of their normal plane of movement - what can happen is that they a) may produce a local eddy or current disruption of blood to/from the brain and/or b) may produce abnormal proprioceptive signals to your brain about your body’s balance position sense.

And if this delicate balance is in any way disrupted - even if just for a split second - vertigo may be the end result!

Can chiropractic offer cervical vertigo treatment?

At this point you may be wondering, "Why has no one ever told me this about vertigo before?”

It’s kind of a complicated answer, but I will do my best. In many ways, it is simply a matter of perspective. Many vertigo specialists in Brisbane know only about inner ear disturbances, and focus on drugs or even surgery to address the symptoms of vertigo. Others work on exercises designed to help with vertigo.

And you know what? These things DO work … but not for everyone! It is a reason why there are so many different types of vertigo specialists. I believe that if any one person had it all figured out 100%, everyone with vertigo would have a cure. However, no such thing exists. Therefore, there are certain elements that can be different for everyone.

In fact, everything that I have mentioned in this article may or may not be true for you! For some people, their vertigo has nothing to do with their neck. For other people it very much does! 

And it is for these particular people - the ones who have been struggling with vertigo having tried so many different things but not finding the answers they’re looking for - this is where it is important to look at the alignment of the C1 and C2 vertebra in the neck.

And here is where the unique approach that we use at Atlas Chiropractic Brisbane may be able to help. What we offer is a different approach to healthcare based on a special division of chiropractic developed in the USA called the Blair Upper Cervical method. 

In brief, it is a personalised, detailed approach that uses advanced diagnostic methods including 3D x-rays in order to determine the exact degree of misalignment in your neck (which is different in every human being!) in order toe design an adjustment that is truly made just for you. The treatment then is unlike general cervical manipulation. There is no twisting or cracking your neck: only a gentle impulse to help realign the vertebrae in your neck using the amount of force you would use to feel your pulse.

I am very much of the philosophy that IF vertigo is caused by a chemical problem (e.g., salt, caffeine, etc), then ONLY a chemical treatment will solve the problem. IF it is caused by an emotional problem (e.g., too much stress), then ONLY an emotion treatment will solve the problem. And IF it is caused by a physical problem (e.g., a misalignment of the bones in the top of your neck affecting your brainstem and nervous system), then ONLY a physical treatment will solve the problem.

IF the problem is a misalignment of your C1 or C2 vertebrae, no amount of medication or supplement will fix the problem. All you will be doing is treating the symptoms without addressing the underlying cause.

What is the best chiropractic technique for vertigo?

There is no such thing as a special chiropractic vertigo treatment. (If ONLY it was so simple).

You see, upper cervical care and correcting the alignment of those two upper cervical vertebrae, is not so linear that all people who have a misaligned C1 experience vertigo.

Because the alignment of the top bones in your neck affect the brainstem, which is the master control system of the body, just about any symptom you can think of can happen!

One cause, but multiple potential effects depending on exactly what particular nerves are being affected! Now, because of unique characteristic of human beings that stands them apart from all other animals (no pun intended), upright posture makes us susceptible to vertigo or dizziness if our balance systems are disrupted.

(Note: I graduated from chiropractic university in the USA in 2007 before moving to Australia that same year. Yes, we learned about vertigo but I never realised just how COMMON it really is! So many people who suffer vertigo feel so alone, so isolated: feeling like no one understands. But did you realise that in Australia there are over 1 million people in Australia who experience some type of balance disorder involving either dizziness of vertigo?! It turns out it really isn’y that uncommon at all!)

Now, can vertigo be caused by OTHER things besides a misalignment in your neck? Absolutely! And this is why it is so important not to focus solely on where you feel the symptom, but to consider the full array of common possibilities that vertigo is not just a matter of something affecting the inner each, but that it can start in your neck too!

But, to finish the point that I was making earlier, unlike so many other forms of treatment, the type of work that our Brisbane atlas chiropractors use is not meant as a direct treatment for your vertigo or other symptoms. Instead, we want to address the cause of your vertigo.

The unique approach we use works on the premise that IF you nervous system is free of interference, then your body will be able to function better and properly heal itself. Therefore, if we can correct the alignment of a vertebra in the top of your neck that is affecting the normal function of your brain, then the SIDE EFFECT is that your body will be able to heal itself!

In other words, we don’t pretend that we can control your symptoms. Our job is simply to correct the alignment of your neck, and then allow your body to do the healing as it is designed to do. And - funny that! - when that is allowed to happen, many people who experience vertigo finally experience the relief that they have been struggling to achieve for so long!

Chiropractic vertigo specialist near me?

In the same vein that there is no such thing as one “best” vertigo treatment, there is actually no true such thing as a “chiropractic vertigo specialist.”

Why? As we just said, it’s because we aren’t treating you vertigo. We’re treating your upper neck BUT with the expectation that by doing so you will be able to experience relief from vertigo.

Now, one of the reasons we use this particular chiropractic approach for people with vertigo is based on the work of research from the USA, which considered over 300 people with vertigo (Meniere’s disease, specifically). In brief, this published research documented a 97% success rate for people experiencing vertigo. … Oh yes, and that was over a 5 year+ period. 

Those are pretty good numbers in anyone’s book!

Now, as part of a full disclosure process, the research did not describe the percent improvement in people: only that it was significant! I would suspect that for some people that improvement would have been only 20-30%, but enough that they realised a significant improvement in their quality of life. For others it may well have been 100%.

So, if you are experiencing vertigo, it would be irresponsible of me to guarantee a favourable outcome … it would also be very stupid! I simply share these numbers with you to show what is possible!

So many of the people that we see in our Brisbane upper cervical clinic located in North Lakes have been to Dr XYZ. Typically people who do seek care are those who have tried lots of things but still not found the answers they are looking for.

Our mission at Atlas Chiropractor North Lakes is to provide hope and healing for those who desire it most - who have been looking for answers - and to help these people get back to enjoying the quality of life that they desire most.

If this describes you, it would be our privilege to help.

Now, we still may not have all the answers, but if we can help direct you in any way, we will do out best. Dr Jeffrey Hannah is our upper cervical chiropractor North Lakes office. He has over 10 years practice in upper cervical care and is advanced certified in the Blair technique. If you would like to speak with Dr Hannah about your specific condition, he would be happy to have a chat. 

Our North Lakes chiropractor office offers a 15 minute phone consultation at no-charge where we would be happy to answer any questions you may have and to find out if care may be right for you. Our practice serves not only the local communities of North Lakes, Mango Hill, Narangba, Redcliffe, Brighton, Sandgate and Aspley, but also the the greater Brisbane area including Albany Creek, Warner, Cashmere, Dayboro, Samford, Everton Park, Boondall and Bridgeman Downs. 

Our office is also conveniently located 25 minutes from the Brisbane airport for those who may need to travel within Queensland, or even from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide.

You can reach out office via email or at our main number, 07 3188 9329. Even if you are outside the Brisbane area, please feel free to get in contact with us, and we can direct you to your nearest upper cervical doctor of chiropractic.

Take care of your neck and start enjoying your life again.



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