Dizziness caused by neck problems is called cervical vertigo. The degree of dizziness varies from fleeting and mild to long lasting and debilitating. As there seems to be no practical and effective drug treatment, patients often seek alternative therapies, like chiropractic.
Patients begin to notice the dizziness after sustaining a neck injury, and sometimes describe their symptoms as "lightheadedness", as being "unsteady", "off-balance" or just plain "clumsy".
According to a study in the Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine January 2003; 35:36-43, most patients put the intensity of dizziness on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) as 4.8. Sitting quietly or standing still gives relief to 90% of subjects.
Over half the patients studied had daily bouts of dizziness. Twenty-one percent said that they actually fell over when a wave of vertigo came. The symptoms of dizziness began either immediately or within 24 hours after the whiplash in 68% of cases studied while 15% had it start 1 week post-trauma.
Cervical vertigo occurs in about 80% of whiplash cases and after around 33% of other types of neck injuries. After pain, vertigo is the most frequent whiplash complaint. Periods of dizziness are usually related to sudden neck motions. Women are far more likely to suffer from dizziness after a cervical trauma than men. Vertigo is more likely implicated with chronic neck pain and its presence is generally a sign that recovery will be slow and incomplete.
Chiropractors can help treat dizziness stemming from the neck. As a result of trauma to the neck, there is a shift in the proprioceptive impulses coming from the muscles, joints and tendons in the neck and going to the brain. This disturbance of sensory input results most frequently in dizziness, or some alteration of positional awareness.
Cervicogenic vertigo has been recognized since the mid-50's and has been studied extensively since. Chiropractic is quite successful in treating cases of dizziness whereas medicine remains somewhat baffled as to how to help these patients.
There are other causes of vertigo that need to be considered. Most causes relate to the balance mechanism of the inner ear. Infections, both bacterial and viral, inflammation, and brain damage from trauma or strokes all can cause vertigo.
Another very common cause is crystal formation on the tiny hair-like projections in the ear canals. These microscopic crystals occasionally break off and begin to slosh around with the ear fluid. This altered fluid motion sends false information to the brain, particularly with rapid head movement, and dizziness results. Fortunately there is a simple and harmless maneuver that can, in many cases, shift these crystals into an area of the canals where they no longer affect the brain signals.