most-common-cause-of-vertigoThe most common vestibular disorder is BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, affecting over 150,000 people every year.  BPPV causes intense vertigo episodes, particularly due to changes in head position. While the name of the condition is rather long winded, understanding what each word means can help illuminate the nature of this common vertigo disorder.

  • Benign – benign indicates that the condition is not life-threatening.
  • Paroxysmal – paroxysmal describes the timing of the episodes, since they happen in sudden, short-lived spells.
  • Positional – vertigo episodes related to BPPV are triggered by head movements or positions.
  • Vertigo – the primary symptom of BPPV, vertigo is a false sense of rotational movement.

Why Does BPPV Develop?

BPPV is the result of an issue in the inner ear.  The vestibular system is responsible for the body’s ability to balance and is composed of three fluid-filled semicircular canals. Within the area of the inner ear called the utricle, there are calcium carbonate crystals embedded here that help with sensing motion and ultimately provide our brain with the information necessary to maintain our sense of balance.  Unfortunately, these crystals can break down as time goes on, and get dislodged or become damaged by an inner ear infection or head injury. This will cause them to travel into fluid-filled canals where they don’t belong, disturbing the normal fluid movement in the inner ear, resulting in severe vertigo attacks.

What Are the Ways of Identifying BPPV?

A few of the primary signs that BPPV is causing your vertigo are that it does not cause constant dizziness (BPPV episodes are quite short but extreme) and it is usually triggered by a change in head position.  Here are several ways to help you identify whether you are experiencing benign paroxysmal positional vertigo:

  • BPPV is the probably the cause of vertigo that happens when you lie down.
  • BPPV can stir up other conditions like migraines.  Migraine sufferers with BPPV may notice that their the frequency or severity of their headaches has increased.
  • Waking up with vertigo is another indicator of BPPV being the cause.
  • You may have very specific, abnormal eye movements called nystagmus that accompany your vertigo episodes.

Common Treatment Methods for BPPV

For some people, doing certain head maneuvers can be enough to provide relief from BPPV symptoms, by shifting the particles away from the semicircular canals.  Canalith repositioning maneuvers such as the Epley maneuver tend to be very successful at providing symptomatic relief. The Epley maneuver includes moving the body and head into different positions, using gravity to guide the loose crystals into a different part of the inner ear where they won’t cause vertigo symptoms.

Occasionally, BPPV sufferers are prescribed medications designed to suppress the vestibular system; however, these are usually only given for short-term relief because long-term use can worsen the symptoms.

How BPPV and Your Neck Are Related

Head position is inherently connected to neck position because of the way that your neck is designed, specifically the upper part of it, that allows the wide range of movement that our heads are able to do.  Your neck’s strength and alignment determine your ability to hold your head up. BPPV could be a neck problem just as much as it relates to the head position. This is particularly key for vertigo sufferers who have had any history of a head or neck injury.  Here are a few of the reasons that we know vertigo is connected to the neck:

  1. Changes in head position can aggravate vertigo, for example when someone rolls over or gets up out of bed, or when you extend your neck back to look up (like when getting something out of a high cupboard), or when bending down to pick something up or tie your shoes.
  2. Communication of signals via the vestibular nerve and brainstem are located within the uppermost vertebrae of your spine.  Abnormal positioning of these vertebrae can affect the accuracy of the signals that inform your brain how your body is positioned in space.  This can result in vestibular dysfunction and vertigo.
  3. A past head or neck injury that can cause otoconia to dislodge – even something as simple as a slip and fall or a mild car accident could be enough to trigger the loosening of the calcium crystals in your inner ear.  An accident or injury could also cause a shift in your vertebra that is responsible for holding your head up, which can cause abnormal nerve function and head position.

Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Proves Successful for Bringing Relief to Vertigo Sufferers

Upper cervical chiropractic care is a specialized niche in the chiropractic profession that focuses on the vertebrae at the upper part of the neck.  The way that these two bones are positioned – the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2) – makes a dramatic difference on head movement, brainstem function, and the way that the rest of the spine works beneath it.  If you are suffering from vertigo, getting your neck looked at by an upper cervical chiropractor is highly recommended for lasting, natural relief. This is even more important if you have any history of head or neck trauma, whether mild or extreme.

The way that upper cervical chiropractic adjustments work is through precision, so they do not require a great deal of force.  We take time to thoroughly analyze your head and neck position so that we can tailor the adjustment in such a way that it holds in place as long as possible.  Once the spinal alignment has been corrected, your body can start the natural healing process and begin functioning normally again. Instead of learning to cope with recurring bouts of BPPV, give us a call for a free, no-obligation consultation to see how upper cervical chiropractic care can help your specific situation.