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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Farrell

Vertigo: Chiropractic, BPPV & Neck Pain

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a sensation of spinning or movement and a distressing condition that can significantly impact your quality of life. It can come out of nowhere. The sensation of spinning and dizziness can be debilitating, leading to difficulties with balance, coordination, and daily activities. If you're experiencing symptoms of vertigo, your local Edmonton chiropractor can help. Learn how chiropractic treatment for vertigo can help alleviate your symptoms.

Vertigo symptoms exist on a spectrum. Your symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. More severe cases may present with significant balance disturbances accompanied by nausea. Patients in this state are often embarrassed to seek treatment for fear of vomiting. Don't worry if this is you; we handle this regularly and understand! Milder cases of BPPV may only experience minor dizziness with specific postures, like looking up or rolling in bed, and symptoms dissipate quickly if they stay in the same position for a bit. Very subtle cases might not experience much dizziness but notice their neck has been feeling stiffer for no reason, or their vision has become more challenged, particularly if they try to read signs when walking.

Is all Vertigo the Same?

No. Many different conditions can cause vertigo. For this reason, any patient with vertigo must be thoroughly evaluated. To ensure your vertigo is the crystal type (BPPV), your chiropractor treating vertigo will conduct a thorough history and examination.

What Causes Vertigo?

One of the most common forms of vertigo is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV is often referred to as "the crystals in the ear" type of vertigo. As its more common name suggests, this form of vertigo is caused by small calcium carbonate crystals. In this type of vertigo, crystals located in an area of the inner ear called the otolith break free and enter into another inner ear structure area called the semicircular canal. When crystals enter the semicircular canal, they begin to cause problems such as vertigo. Dislodged crystals in a semicircular canal cause improper balance signals from the inner ear to the brain. These improper signals cause a person with BPPV to feel as if their head is moving when no actual head movement is occurring. A sufferer often describes this type of vertigo experience as a spinning sensation.

How do Crystals in the Ear Cause Vertigo?

To help conceptualize how this crystal problem can cause vertigo, you might remember spinning around in circles as a child and stopping suddenly. Even after stopping spinning with no more movement of your head, you still feel like you are spinning for some time after. The cause of this post-spinning vertigo effect is related to the continued movement of the fluid in the semicircular canal in your ear. This fluid, accelerated by the spins, continues to move despite your head no longer being in motion. Movement of this fluid within the ear's semicircular canal signals to the brain that your head is still moving. Similarly, crystals dislodged in a semicircular canal can create fluid movement when they move around despite the head being still, inducing a similar distressing sense of movement for a person who feels they should be still.

There are six semicircular canals in total, three in each ear. Different treatment techniques are used to treat each canal specifically; identifying the affected canal is key to successful treatment. Patients may also have multiple canal involvement, so consideration of this possibility is also important. Each canal responds uniquely to different head movements so a patient may have more difficulty with certain types of head movement directions than others.

The crystal-affected canal can often be determined by simply listening to the patient describe their symptoms. Patients often relate different head positions and body movements that make them feel dizzy. Common positions patients will describe provoking their BPPV symptoms include:

  • Looking up.

  • Putting on shoes.

  • Turning to a particular side.

  • Shoulder checking

  • Rolling over in bed.

The reason these positions listed above can trigger a patient's vertigo relates to the effect that gravity has on a crystal sitting in a given semicircular canal. Imagine a Christmas snow globe just sitting on the counter; all the flakes are settled on the bottom of the globe. Now imagine picking it up and turning it upside down. Turning it upside down causes the snowflakes to move as gravity pulls them down to the "top" of the globe (now upside down) until they settle again. Similarly, when the head is moved, this reorientates the bottom of the canal where crystals are resting, causing them to move. As these crystals move, so does the fluid in the canal. Fluid movement in the canal triggers receptors that tell the brain a patient's head is moving, causing the sensation of vertigo.

Often there is a slight delay between the movement of an affected person's head and the onset of vertigo symptoms. This slight delay occurs because gravity takes a second or two to accelerate the crystal enough to cause the fluid movement effect. Patients often say that if they keep still, they can decrease their symptoms, often reporting that their vertigo will stop until they move their head again. This makes sense because staying still allows gravity to settle the crystals again. When the crystals settle, the fluid movement stops. When the fluid stops, so do the bad signals to the brain telling a patient their head is moving, causing this type of vertigo.

How is BPPV Treated?

Once a crystal has been identified in a specific semicircular canal, Chiropractic treatment for vertigo will involve a series of NON-PAINFUL canal repositioning maneuvres. These maneuvers involve rolling patients into different head and body positions: on their back, side, and stomach. Rolling changes the inner ear canal's orientation, allowing gravity to pull the crystal out of the problematic canal. Patients often feel dizzy during the procedure, but completing the proper sequence of maneuvers will most certainly enjoy a marked improvement quickly!

Chiropractors understand the importance of collaboration in managing vertigo effectively. Depending on your vertigo's complexity and underlying causes, your chiropractor may work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals, such as your family doctor, ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialists), neurologist, physical therapist, and massage therapist, to ensure comprehensive care and access to the most appropriate treatments.

Living with vertigo can be challenging, but you don't have to endure it alone. Seeking Chiropractic treatment for vertigo can provide you with the support and expertise you need to find relief and regain control of your life. If you're experiencing vertigo symptoms, especially those consistent with BPPV, we welcome you to book an appointment so we can be your local Edmonton chiropractor who offers treatment for vertigo.

Book an appointment online and take the first step towards a life free from vertigo's debilitating effects.

This blog post does not replace medical advice. Vertigo can be a symptom of a serious underlying problem requiring emergency medical attention. It's essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new or at-home treatments.


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