Vertigo and other balance disorders affect an estimated 35% of adults 40 and older in the United States, amounting to over 69 million people affected. Symptoms of vertigo can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to complete what most consider to be normal, everyday tasks – showering, tying shoes, walking down a flight of stairs, driving a car – these can all be extremely taxing or impossible for vertigo sufferers. This is why many patients seek professional care to obtain Duluth vertigo relief.
Differentiating Vertigo from Dizziness
First, clearing up the definition of vertigo is essential. Many times, the words vertigo, dizziness, and disequilibrium are used interchangeably which, while convenient, may not be accurate. All three are common symptoms that can result from problems with the inner ear or central nervous system function. They are all referred to as vestibular disorders, but have differences that are worth mentioning:
Dizziness is an ambiguous term that can be used to describe feeling light-headed or faint. Some will even feel dizzy when experienced heightened anxiety levels.
Disequilibrium is a lack of balance. A person will feel unsteady, off-balance, disoriented, and may even fall.
True vertigo is the feeling of motion when there is no motion. People often describe it as a rotational sensation that comes along with nausea, vomiting, and nystagmus (abnormal eye movements). While not a diagnosis itself, vertigo is a component of several vestibular disorders.
How Does Vertigo Develop?
Since vertigo has to do with the brain perceiving movement when there isn’t any, to understand it, it’s important to know how your body normally maintains its sense of balance. Information about your surroundings and how your body is positioned in space is collected from three major systems in the body:
- Your eyes
- Your inner ear (vestibular system)
- Sensors in the limbs, trunk, and spine that are sensitive to touch/pressure (proprioception)
These three systems gather the information received by the brainstem, which is at the junction between the brain and spinal cord near the base of the skull. The brainstem’s job is to process this information and send the appropriate signals in response. These signals will help keep your vision steady and create the correct muscle movements to maintain your balance and posture.
A healthy balance system is a well-coordinated one. As the brainstem receives signals, it seamlessly sends back the responses needed for balance. However, a faulty part of this cycle can result in vertigo when the information being taken in by the vestibular system is impaired by one of the many common vertigo disorders.
What is Causing My Vertigo?
Here are some of the factors that can contribute to the development of vertigo:
- Head injury
- Viral infection
- Environmental factors
Vertigo is not a diagnosis on its own. When you’re experiencing vertigo, it can have its roots in conditions that cause vestibular system dysfunction, such as:
- BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo)
- Acoustic neuroma
- Meniere’s disease
- Vestibular neuritis
- Vestibular migraine
- Mal de debarquement syndrome
While all of these conditions occur for different reasons, the common thread they all have is that they disturb normal vestibular function and interrupt or distort the normal balance signals the brain relies upon to maintain balance. The end result is vertigo episodes of varying degrees of severity – some may experience frequent but mild attacks while others may be brought to their knees with a more severe attack.
What are my Options for Care?
Depending on what is determined to be contributing to your vertigo, recommendations for care may include any of the following:
Vertigo sufferers may be prescribed medications to help minimize their symptoms. Those with Meniere’s disease may be given a diuretic (water pill) to try and reduce fluid buildup in the ear. Others may take different medications such as antihistamines or antiemetics to relieve symptoms of nausea and dizziness. Antibiotics, anti-anxiety, and anticonvulsant drugs also help in some cases.
Vertigo sufferers might benefit from vestibular rehabilitation therapy, which might help your body more adaptable and less sensitive to motion. For BPPV, certain head positioning maneuvers might be performed to try and resolve vertigo that arises from misplaced calcium crystals in the inner ear.
Surgical and other procedures
When more conservative efforts to reduce vertigo are unsuccessful, doctors may recommend inner ear injections to disable the vestibular system, or surgery to remove part of the inner ear.
A Natural Solution for Vertigo Sufferers in Duluth, MN
A frequently overlooked piece of the vertigo puzzle is the brainstem, which as we talked about above, is responsible for receiving, processing, and integrating balance signals. It is no coincidence that many vertigo sufferers can recall experiencing a head or neck injury in their past, even things that were seemingly benign at the time such as a minor fender bender or slip on the ice in winter. These injuries can cause a misalignment of the upper vertebrae in the neck that protect the brainstem. When the atlas (C1) or axis (C2) misalign, it can irritate the brainstem and interrupt its ability to do its job optimally, resulting in vertigo months or even many years after the initial trauma.
Upper cervical chiropractic care is a branch of chiropractic that specializes in the analysis and correction of misalignments that can impact the brainstem. At Zenith Spine & Wellness, we offer cutting-edge upper cervical chiropractic care that provides our vertigo patients with gentle adjustments and proven results. Once we can determine if an upper cervical misalignment is contributing to your vertigo, we can begin to take the necessary steps to create a lasting, natural solution. Scheduling a consultation with our Duluth, MN vertigo chiropractor is easy, just call our Duluth office at 218.390.5113 to find out more about how we can help you return to a better quality of life!