It can be hard to describe exactly what you are feeling when you experience either vertigo or dizziness. Some people may even use both words to describe the same sensation. However, it is important to note that vertigo is much different than dizziness. Vertigo is a vestibular disorder, meaning it comes from the inner ear and is related to a malfunction of the vestibular system. As many as 40 percent of people over the age of 40 years have had some type of vestibular disorder such as spinning.
When someone uses the term dizziness, he may be referring to any of the following:
- A spaced-out feeling
- Feeling like you might pass out
- Disequilibrium — feeling off balance or unsteady
The term vertigo, however, refers to distinct symptoms:
- A feeling you or the things around you are spinning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Problems with balance
- Trouble walking
- Nystagmus — abnormal eye movements
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and vertigo, download our complimentary e-book HOW TO NATURALLY RELIEVE VERTIGO WITHOUT DRUGS by clicking the image below.
Vertigo is not a condition, but rather a symptom or a description of a sensation. You may actually experience both vertigo and dizziness at different times.
Vertigo can be quite disabling when it occurs, especially if nausea and vomiting accompany it. It is usually not a serious condition unless you are performing a task when you experience a spinning attach, such as driving, operating heavy machinery, or flying an airplane.
Visiting a primary care doctor for dizziness accounts for about 6 percent of all doctor visits.
Table of Contents
Why Vertigo Happens
Vertigo is usually the result of a malfunction of one of the parts of the inner ear and the brain that work to maintain balance. These include:
- The brainstem and cerebellum
- Nerve tracts connecting the brainstem and cerebellum to the inner ear
- The inner ear itself
The inner ear is made up of the semicircular canals, saccule, and utricle that help the body to detect body motion and position. The signals from these structures travel to the brain via the vestibulocochlear nerve or the 8th cranial nerve which is also involved in hearing. The information is then processed in the brainstem that then adjusts your posture and coordinates movement in conjunction with the cerebellum. This then provides you with balance so you do not fall over. If a disorder happens within any of these structures, vertigo ensues.
It is important to note that any disorder impacting brain function, in general, can make you feel dizzy. This includes:
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar
- Certain medications
- Severe anemia
Very few cases of dizziness indicate a serious underlying problem.
Common Reasons for Vertigo and Dizziness
There are basically two types of dizziness: those with and those without spinning. There is some overlapping, but generally, this is the rule.
Dizziness with Vertigo
- Meniere’s disease
- Vestibular Neuronitis
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
- A vestibular migraine*
*Vestibular migraine is becoming more and more recognized as a cause of dizziness with vertigo. This migraine is most often seen in those with a family history of migraines. The head pain is usually accompanied by vertigo or dizziness.
Dizziness without Vertigo
- Medication effects — many medications can harm the nerves of the ear and balance organs
- Multifactorial causes
- A tumor of the vestibulocochlear nerve
- A tumor, stroke, or TIA affecting the brainstem
- An injury to the eardrum, inner ear, or base of the skull
- Multiple sclerosis
- Low blood sugar
Caring for Vertigo
If it is a medication causing your dizziness or vertigo, your doctor will probably recommend stopping the medication and trying a similar one. Most ways to care for spinning have to do with caring for the symptoms rather than trying to find the underlying cause. For example, meclizine or promethazine can help with nausea and vomiting, diazepam or lorazepam can help with inner ear disorders, and antihistamine drugs are used as an alternative.
Physical therapy may be suggested to help you cope with your balance issues. Some suggestions by physical therapists may include:
- Storing items at a level that is easy to reach
- Avoiding movements that trigger dizziness, such as looking up or bending over
- Getting up slowly from a sitting or lying position
- Learning exercises that combine eye, body, and head movements to help prevent dizziness
- Clenching hands and flexing feet before standing
- Doing physical therapy and exercises to help make your muscles stronger and walk on your own as long as possible
- Doing vestibular rehabilitation
Vertigo Caused by Improper Neck Alignment
It has been seen that certain vestibular disorders, including vertigo, often occur after some type of trauma to the head or neck. Something mild such as a fender bender or a trip and fall can be enough to cause issues. This is because the top bone of the neck, the C1 or atlas, is very susceptible to misaligning due to its shape and mobility. The atlas was designed to protect the delicate brainstem. Therefore, a misalignment here can put stress on the brainstem and cause it to malfunction. This causes it to send improper signals to the brain.
If the brain receives one signal from the brainstem and different signals from the eyes, ears, and nerves about the body’s location, the end result can be spinning. By correcting the misalignment and restoring proper communication between the brain and body, vertigo may improve or go away completely. This has been proven in case studies.
Here at Sherwood Spinal Care in Renton, Washington, we use a method that gently realigns the bones without the need to crack or pop the back or neck. This is a more natural process that allows for a longer-lasting adjustment, leading to fewer visits to our office later on.
To schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Sherwood, call 425-243-1607 or just click the button below.
If you are outside of the local area, you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.