Vertigo refers to a spinning or moving sensation, where the person feels as if they or their surroundings are moving around. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, & motion sickness, along with nystagmus & tinnitus are also common in patients with vertigo. Cervical vertigo refers to a type of vertigo wherein the patients’ dizziness & other vertigo-like symptoms are brought on by certain neck movements & postures.
Some doctors refer to this condition as cervicogenic dizziness, as they feel that this term describes the condition more accurately. Other names for the same are proprioceptive vertigo, cervicogenic vertigo, & cervical dizziness.
One major factor of differentiation between cervical vertigo and other types of vertigo, including peripheral vertigo, is the fact that, unlike the others, it is not affected by changes in the patient’s head positions.
A few theories for the causes of cervical vertigo exist. Among these, trauma to the neck, and poor posture, are the most common ones. Cervical vertigo treatment generally involves treating any underlying muscular or medical issues. There also exist ways to prevent some forms of vertigo & dizziness.
In this article, we look at the causes, diagnosis, & treatment of cervical vertigo. It also tells you when you should visit a doctor.
What are the symptoms of cervical vertigo?
Most other types of vertigo occur due to an inner ear issue or rarely, problems with the central nervous system. With cervical vertigo, the cause of the dizziness is in the patient’s neck. It usually arises due to an underlying issue, mostly a neck injury.
After a neck injury, a person will usually experience dizziness on moving their neck in different ways & directions, or by performing a sudden movement. This dizziness may last for a few minutes to a few hours.
A patient with cervical vertigo may experience symptoms including:
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of balance
- Ear Pain
- Ringing In The Ears
- Difficulty Concentration
Some people might experience worse or more severe symptoms after they exercise, or perform minor activities like sneezing or getting up too fast.
Causes of Cervical Vertigo:
There are multiple causes of cervical vertigo, most of which are associated with a traumatic neck injury or long-term, chronic neck pain. Most healthcare professionals consider cervical vertigo to be a somewhat skewed diagnosis.
A study published in the journal Archives of Physiotherapy revealed that most health professionals fail to fully understand the exact cause of cervical vertigo symptoms & presentation, making the condition difficult to accurately diagnose.
Since there is no definitive test or resource available for the condition, so doctors usually test for other things to eliminate those before determining the exact cause of your dizziness & vertigo.
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A recent study in the journal Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology revealed that medical professionals as people with migraines who also have neck injuries might mistake people. It is also important to note that 94% of people with cervical vertigo also report having neck pain.
The function of the neck is quite important in maintaining the balance of the body. The muscles, nerves, and joints in the neck send balance-related information to the lower brain and the inner ear.
This function is a part of the body’s efforts to maintain its coordination & balance. When there is a misfire in the signals sent to the brain by the neck, balance issues, disorientation, nausea, & headaches can arise. Some conditions can cause this misfire in the signals sent by the neck to the brain.
Some of these conditions include:
Sometimes blockages in the arteries of the neck can cause injuries in that specific area. This can be one of the cervical vertigo causes. Another condition called atherosclerosis can also be cervical vertigo causes. It refers to a thickening of the artery walls.
Certain traumatic injuries like an accident, whiplash, or a bad fall, etc. can cause a grave injury or trauma to the neck region. This can also be one of the cervical vertigo causes. Any neck surgeries can also be cervical vertigo causes, especially if the site of the surgery was close to the brainstem & damaged either it or the arteries around the neck & the head region.
Advanced osteoarthritis in the neck area can lead to a condition called cervical spondylosis. This leads to the neck vertebrae wearing down, putting excessive strain on the nerves, arteries, or the spinal cord itself. This pressure on the neck can lead to wrong signals being sent to the brain, thus leading to cervical vertigo.
l Slipped Disk:
Although slipped disks are usually more common in the lower back area, they can occur anywhere in the spine. A slipped disk, or a herniated disk, occurs when the softer center of a spinal disk pushes its way out through a crack in the spine. In some specific cases, there are no symptoms. However, in some cases, the disk may push into an artery or a nerve, & cause vertigo symptoms.
l Poor Posture:
Bad & wrong posture can also be a cervical cause. The cervical spine may begin to compress over time when a person indulges in poor postures like ‘text neck’ continuously. Text Neck refers to a posture where the person bends their neck for long periods to look at electronic devices.
Other postures that somehow aggravate a person’s existing neck issues or have the potential to cause neck issues, can also lead to cervical vertigo. Poor postures can put extra pressure on the arteries of the neck and might even cause some people to experience pain & vertigo-like symptoms.
Cervical Vertigo treatment:
Once your doctor has eliminated all the other possible types of vertigo and other vertigo causes, they will study your symptoms carefully & give you a treatment plan based on those. Your treatment will mostly depend on the exact underlying condition causing the symptoms in the first place.
Cervical vertigo treatment usually involves symptom management with some well-known & proven vertigo medicines. While your symptoms are being managed, your doctor works on other treatment options to treat the exact underlying cause of your cervical vertigo.
This may include the use of some vertigo medicines, as well as vertigo exercises & home remedies.
Vertigo medicines like the Stugeron Forte tablet, Meclizine tablet, vertin tablet, Stemetil MD tablet, etc., can all be used to control the symptoms of vertigo. Other medicines include dizziness medications, nausea medications, motion sickness medications, along with medications for headaches & to ease the pain & discomfort associated with various neck conditions.
Muscle relaxants, to relax & calm the neck muscles & in the area around it, are useful in cervical vertigo treatment. Vertigo exercises like the Epley maneuver, the Brandt-Daroff exercises, & the Semont-Foster maneuver may also be used in treatment.
Your doctor might also recommend you some physical training to relieve your symptoms, as well as to help you maintain your balance & orientation in general everyday situations.
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy
Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy is also quite helpful in cervical vertigo treatment, peripheral vertigo treatment; as well as a treatment method for other types of vertigo. It helps train your body to compensate for the losses in the natural vestibular system of the body, & rely more on the other organ systems involved in maintaining balance & gait.
Posture training to improve a person’s posture & exercises to relax the neck muscles is also a helpful cervical vertigo treatment, which aims to improve the patient’s flexibility, range of motion, & general ease of movement.
More flexible neck muscles also mean that; there are lesser chances of the person feeling dizzy or nauseous; when they move their neck in certain ways or sneeze, move fast, etc.
Exercises that help strengthen muscles in the neck region are also helpful in cervical vertigo treatment, as they give the neck much-needed stability in case fast movements & quick neck turns trigger vertigo-like symptoms in patients with cervical vertigo.
Other cervical vertigo treatment options include methods used to treat other types of vertigo, including peripheral vertigo. These include:
- Reducing intake of caffeine, alcohol, & quitting smoking.
- Eating a rich, healthy diet full of vitamins, minerals, & fibers.
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
- Performing relaxation exercises like yoga, dancing, etc.
- Avoiding movements or activities that can strain your neck or cause excessive pressure on your neck muscles in any way.
- Avoid high-intensity exercises that strain your neck muscles.
- Intake certain supplements like Ginkgo Biloba to reduce the intensity & frequency of your vertigo attacks.
- Get an adequate amount of rest & sleep throughout the day to avoid exhaustion & sleep deprivation during the day.