Have you ever felt like everything is spinning and you’re about to lose your balance any time? You may feel dizzy after you move your neck. This could be cervical vertigo. Another name for this is cervicogenic dizziness.
Some of the possible causes of this kind of dizziness are trauma to your cervical spine, neck disorders, or bad neck posture. It can also be because of a head injury where your neck and head alignment has been disrupted. Let’s get to know more about cervical vertigo in this article, including how long vertigo lasts.
What are the Symptoms of Cervical Vertigo?
If you have cervical vertigo, one of the main symptoms is feeling dizzy after you move your neck suddenly. This usually happens when you try to move your head. Here is a list of the other symptoms of cervical vertigo.
• Difficulty concentrating
• Losing balance while standing, sitting, or walking
• Neck pain
• Ear pain or having a ringing sensation in your ear
The symptoms of cervical vertigo may last for a few minutes. But there are instances when it can last for hours. Usually, when the pain in the neck begins to decrease, the dizziness will subside as well. The symptoms often become apparent after you perform any rapid movement such as during exercise or even when just sneezing.
What Causes Cervical Vertigo?
Cervical vertigo causes can vary. This condition is currently being researched by experts. One cause could be atherosclerosis or when the neck arteries harden. Another is when these arteries are torn.
The dizziness occurs because in the cases mentioned, the blood flow going to your inner ear becomes disrupted. It could also be disruption of the flow of blood going to your brain stem which is the brain’s lower region.
Other causes include surgery, trauma to the neck, or arthritis. These causes block the flow of blood to your body’s important parts that control balance. That’s why you experience cervical vertigo.
When you have neck osteoarthritis or cervical spondylosis, it may also cause dizziness. With such a condition, the neck disks and vertebrae are subjected to wear and tear called degeneration. This puts pressure on your spinal nerves or spinal cord, blocking the flow of blood to your inner ear and brain. Even a slipped disk can cause dizziness even if you don’t have cervical spondylosis.
Diagnosis for Cervical Vertigo
Diagnosing cervical vertigo may not be easy. Usually, doctors eliminate the possible causes of cervical vertigo because the symptoms can be very similar. Other conditions that have similar symptoms with cervical vertigo are as follows:
• Diseases of the inner ear such as vestibular neuronitis
• Psychogenic vertigo
• Central vertigo caused by multiple sclerosis, tumors, or stroke
• Benign Positional Vertigo
Your physician will rule out these conditions to determine if what you have is cervical vertigo. The doctor will perform physical exams wherein you will be asked to turn your head. If the doctor observes that you have nystagmus or sporadic eye movement basing on your head positioning, then it is possible that the condition that you have is cervical vertigo.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may further request that you have the following tests:
• X-ray of your cervical spine
• Vertebral angiography
• Vertebral Doppler ultrasound
• MRA or magnetic resonance angiography
• MRI scan of your neck
How is Cervical Vertigo Treated?
Treatments for cervical vertigo would have to depend on the underlying causes. For example, if the cause of cervical vertigo is a degenerative disease of the neck, then you would have to be diligent with the treatment plan for that condition.
Your physician may also give you prescription for medication to help reduce pain, dizziness, and neck tightness. Among such medications are muscle relaxants, analgesics, and anti-dizziness meds. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help in improving the range of motion of your neck. This also aids in improving your balance.
If you are diagnosed with cervical vertigo, know that it is treatable. However, you do have to seek medical guidance for the symptoms to decrease or to be eliminated completely. Otherwise, they may get worse. It is advised that you don’t self-diagnose because cervical vertigo can be a symptom of a more complex health condition. Go to your doctor so that you’ll know for sure.
Cervical Vertigo Exercises
You may find it strange that one of the treatments for cervical vertigo is by doing some exercises. Do note that sudden movements usually cause the dizziness so that’s what you have to avoid when performing these exercises.
A simple head movement going up and down can do you some good. Remember to start slow and do this with your eyes closed if you become too dizzy. Do the exercise 20 times. When you’re done, move your head from side to side for another 20 times. Once you’ve gotten used to it, do it with your eyes open and with a faster pace. If you feel very dizzy doing this, do stop and rest.
When you’re sitting down, try shrugging your shoulders. Move them up and down for 20 times. After this exercise, you may then move your shoulders going from left to right for another 20 times.
When you feel alright, you may proceed to the next exercise which is bending over as though you’re trying to get something from the floor. Do this still seated, and then sit straight again. Do this slowly for another 20 times. After the seated exercises, you can do the next simple exercise which is going from a seated to position to a standing position. Do this for 20 times as well.
Remember that cervical vertigo can be treated so you should make it a point to talk to a doctor so that you will be given the right treatment. When you do the exercises suggested above, have someone to assist you in case you feel too dizzy or lose your balance. Take things slow and allow yourself to rest whenever you are too dizzy.
Dr. Tymothy L. Flory graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, Missouri. Before opening Atlas Brain Spine, Dr. Flory practiced Upper Cervical Chiropractic in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Flory completed Board Certification of the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association in 2012 and is currently a Credentialed Instructor for the organization.