Vertigo and Dizziness
Vertigo is the term often used to describe any type of dizziness. “Dorland’s Medical Dictionary” indicates that vertigo is a type of dizziness associated with an illusion of movement, often a spinning sensation, which may be from a disease of the inner ear or from disturbances in pathways in the nervous system. Chiropractic treatment is an option for the treatment of certain types of vertigo.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common causes of vertigo — the sudden sensation that you’re spinning or that the inside of your head is spinning.
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo causes brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is usually triggered by specific changes in the position of your head. This might occur when you tip your head up or down, when you lie down, or when you turn over or sit up in bed.
Inside of your ear is a tiny organ called the vestibular labyrinth. It includes three loop-shaped structures (semicircular canals) that contain fluid and fine, hair-like sensors that monitor the rotation of your head.
Other structures (otolith organs) in your ear monitor movements of your head — up and down, right and left, back and forth — and your head’s position related to gravity. These otolith organs contain crystals that make you sensitive to gravity.
For a variety of reasons, these crystals can become dislodged. When they become dislodged, they can move into one of the semicircular canals — especially while you’re lying down. This causes the semicircular canal to become sensitive to head position changes it would normally not respond to, which is what makes you feel dizzy.
The signs and symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) may include:
- A sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving (vertigo)
- A loss of balance or unsteadiness
Activities that bring about the signs and symptoms of BPPV can vary from person to person, but are almost always brought on by a change in the position of your head. Some people also feel out of balance when standing or walking.
Abnormal rhythmic eye movements (nystagmus) usually accompany the symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
Chiropractic manipulation targets joints that are moving improperly. In the upper neck, faulty motion patterns can result in misinformation about body position and movement being communicated from the joints to the brain. It is known that vertigo can stem from dysfunction in the spinal column and research has shown that the majority of vertigo sufferers have a cervical subluxation. Studies published in the “Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics,” chiropractor Don Fitz-Ritson reported a 90 percent success rate when treating this type of vertigo with manipulation.
Canalith repositioning: Performed in your chiropractor’s office, the canalith repositioning procedure consists of several simple and slow maneuvers for positioning your head. The goal is to move particles from the fluid-filled semicircular canals of your inner ear into a tiny bag-like open area (vestibule) that houses one of the otolith organs in your ear where these particles don’t cause trouble and are more easily resorbed.
Each position is held for about 30 seconds after any symptoms or abnormal eye movements stop. This procedure is usually effective after one or two treatments.
Your chiropractor will likely teach you how to perform the canalith repositioning procedure on yourself so that you can do it at home if necessary.