Vertigo – it comes in many forms, has many causes, can be acute or chronic and affects around 35-40% of all people over the age of 40 at least once in their lifetime. Perhaps you have experienced it? Or know someone who has? It’s extremely frustrating and debilitating…and if it is chronic, it is a tough way to live your life.
When I hear about a friend or relative having an experience with vertigo, I always feel a lot of empathy for what they are going through. Sufferers often have a sense that the room is spinning, with extreme dizziness. Vertigo can be accompanied by tinnitus – or a ringing of the ear – balance issues, nausea and vomiting and headaches. Some folks can even lose their hearing over time.
I’ve known people to have a temporary experience with vertigo that thankfully subsided over time. Vertigo has various causes but many are related to the inner ear. Patients have asked me if chiropractors can help with Vertigo – and the answer is yes! But before visiting one, here’s what you should know about the condition and the treatment.
What Causes Vertigo
Vertigo is not a condition you can predict or expect to have happen. For many, it just shows up one day, although there are some instances when head trauma or a virus can trigger it.
Central vertigo occurs as the result of a disturbance in one or more parts of the brain, known as sensory nerve pathways.
Peripheral vertigo occurs when there is a disturbance in the balance organs of the inner ear. This is the more common cause of vertigo. Within this category of causes, there are a few main kinds:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BBPV is a condition that affects the inner ear, particularly when calcium particles or crystals clutter in the canals of the ear and the endolymph fluid can’t move them along.
- Meniere’s disease is caused by a change in pressure in the ear plus a buildup of fluid. This can cause both vertigo and possibly hearing loss.
- Labyrinthitis is commonly associated with having an ear infection in the structure of the ear that controls hearing and balance.
- Vestibular neuritis is also a condition commonly associated with having an ear infection. The nerves of the inner ear become inflamed and vertigo symptoms ensue.
Treatments for Vertigo
For the forms of vertigo that don’t go away without treatment, there are some treatment options that do work. In fact, many forms of vertigo – and BBPV in particular – can often be cured over time when specific treatment is applied.
There has been some research on the impact of chiropractic on people suffering from vertigo symptoms, such as dizziness and lack of balance. In this study, patients did improve over time.
Primarily, we chiropractors offer three kinds of treatments that have all shown to be impactful in reducing the symptoms of vertigo.
Chiropractic manipulation focuses on the joints that are not moving properly. Cervicogenic vertigo, when the joints of the upper neck send the wrong signals to the brain about body position and movement, benefits the most from chiropractic manipulation. Chiropractor Don Fitz-Ritson conducted a study that had a 90 percent success rate when treating this type of vertigo with manipulation, after 18 months of treatment.
Positioning maneuvers is another approach that is well-known for improving vertigo symptoms. If the source of vertigo appears to be the inner ear, it may be that debris has accumulated in the balance center of the inner ear. When debris settles in the complex system of fluid-filled tubes of the inner ear, patients can end up with vertigo. By conducting positioning maneuvers, with the Epley Maneuver being one of the most recognized, a chiropractor can attempt to reposition the debris to a less problematic position within the inner ear. This maneuver works well for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV.
Finally, we can show you some exercises that are designed to break up the crystals that can lead to Vertigo. They target the vestibulocochlear system, with the Brandt-Daroff exercises being the most commonly known. Patients have to follow the steps religiously and repeat them five times in the morning, afternoon, and evening for about two weeks.
With the Brandt-Daroff approach, I have the patient sits on the edge of his/her bed and alternately lay on first one side, back upright, then the other side at one-minute intervals. While this can help with symptoms if the protocol is followed, I always warn patients that there is a risk of nausea – so folks should discontinue if that symptom becomes severe.
While vertigo can be difficult to live with and challenging to resolve, for many people it will go away within a few weeks or months. For some, this won’t happen without treatment. If you find yourself with a bout of vertigo, it’s hard to do nothing and hope it will disappear. So consider seeking help! Chiropractors can help with vertigo – and once we diagnose the cause of your vertigo, we’ve got several options for how to help you get rid of it. I hope you never have it, but I’m here if you do.