What Is a Cervical Vertigo?
Vertigo is a medical condition in which a person feels off balance or has a sensation of spinning and dizziness. In most cases, vertigo occurs as a result of a dysfunctional inner ear. However, if a person experiences vertigo as a result of a certain neck posture or due to a neck problem then it is termed as a Cervical Vertigo. It usually occurs with movement of the neck such as when looking up towards the sky. An accurate incidence of Cervical Vertigo cannot be assessed but studies estimate that about 20-50% of people with a history of a closed head injury or a whiplash generally due to a fall or a motor vehicle crash suffer from Cervical Vertigo.[1, 2, 3]
A person with Cervical Vertigo will not have any problems with hearing as is the case with other forms of vertigo that usually stem from inner ear dysfunction. Some people may experience ear pain or tinnitus but that is also not that common. As of now, there is only limited data in the literature with regard to Cervical Vertigo thus making its diagnosis somewhat difficult and treatment limited. However, what is known is that Cervical Vertigo is generally a symptom of another underlying medical condition of which the most common is a neck injury.[1, 2]
Cervical Vertigo will cause the person to have sudden onset dizziness with any movement of the neck, especially in a vertical direction. The duration of the dizziness may last from a few minutes to even hours in some cases. Additionally, there will be loss of coordination, sensation of being off balance, headaches, tinnitus and ear pain. Some people find it difficult to focus and concentrate on tasks at hand due to Cervical Vertigo. These symptoms tend to get worse with any exercise or strenuous activity, especially involving the neck [2, 3]. The article below showcases some of the potential causes, treatment options, and ways to prevent Cervical Vertigo.
What Causes Cervical Vertigo?
The causes of Cervical Vertigo are not fully understood due to lack of adequate data in the literature. This makes the diagnosis and treatment of Cervical Vertigo quite challenging. However, many researchers believe cervical injuries which can be due to a trauma or any type of chronic cervical condition can induce Cervical Vertigo[2, 3].
One of the functions of the inner ear is to keep the body balanced and facilitate overall coordination. Any dysfunction in this part of the ear causes the body to feel as if it is imbalanced or there is a lack of proper coordination. This usually happens if there is interference in the signals sent from the neck area to the brain and the inner ear. There are some medical conditions that disrupt these signals causing Cervical Vertigo.
These conditions include:[2, 3]
Atherosclerosis: Blockages in the arteries in the neck can cause injuries in the cervical region resulting in Cervical Vertigo. These blockages are normally caused due to atherosclerosis which means thickening of the walls of the arteries.
Injuries: Traumatic neck injuries are also a cause of Cervical Vertigo in many cases. It may probably be one of the most common causes of Cervical Vertigo. These injuries are usually caused by a whiplash or a motor vehicle crash affecting the head and neck.
Surgical Procedures: Risks are adherent to any surgical procedure. This holds true even for procedures done in the cervical spine especially if the site of the procedure is somewhere close to the brainstem. Any complication related to the surgery in the neck may cause Cervical Vertigo.
Osteoarthritis: This condition often at times leads to cervical spondylosis which causes rapid degeneration of the cervical vertebrae putting pressure on the nearby nerves. This is yet another reason for Cervical Vertigo.
Disc Herniation: This is yet another cause for cervical vertigo. Although, it is the lumbar spine that is the most common area for disc herniation the cervical spine also at times get herniated. If the herniation is severe it tends to put pressure on the nerves and arteries causing Cervical Vertigo.
Posture: Sitting posture of a person is also one of the causes of Cervical Vertigo. A person having a poor sitting posture or if a person bends the neck too low causes the compression of the cervical spine. This in turn results in the person experiencing Cervical Vertigo.
How is Cervical Vertigo Treated?
To deal with Cervical Vertigo it is important to know what is exactly causing it. Due to inadequate data regarding Cervical Vertigo, it is quite a difficult condition to accurately diagnose and thus management becomes quite challenging for physicians. The treatment generally focuses on symptom management using medications that reduce the sense of imbalance while simultaneously treating the underlying cause[2, 3].
Medications used for Cervical Vertigo generally comprise of drugs that manage dizziness and muscle relaxers. Physical therapy and posture training are also quite effective in managing the symptoms of Cervical Vertigo. The exercises improve range of motion and strength of the muscles of the neck and decrease pressure exerted on the cervical spine.
How Can Cervical Vertigo Be Prevented?
In some scenarios, Cervical Vertigo cannot be prevented, especially when it occurs due to a whiplash or a motor vehicle accidents. However, Cervical Vertigo caused due to poor posture or osteoporosis can be prevented by keeping the muscles of the neck relaxed and diligently practicing neck exercises.
It is also important to have knowledge of a proper sitting posture especially when sitting for long periods of time such as when working on a desk or a computer. It is important to sit with the shoulders, head, and spine in proper alignment to prevent any degeneration of the spine. If a person has to sit for long periods of time, it is important to take frequent breaks and stretch the neck and spine to prevent any episodes of Cervical Vertigo.
To summarize, Cervical Vertigo occurs when an individual experiences dizziness and off balance sensation due to a problem with the neck. This normally happens after an injury to the cervical spine such as after a motor vehicle crash. Medical conditions like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis also can cause rapid degeneration of the cervical spine resulting in Cervical Vertigo[1, 2, 3].
In majority of the cases, Cervical Vertigo is treatable with medications and exercise. However, in people with degeneration of the spine, treatment of Cervical Vertigo is far more challenging and treatment focuses on symptom control to improve quality of life. Due to inadequate data in the literature, the diagnosis of Cervical Vertigo is tough for physicians and is made by ruling out other conditions causing similar symptoms[1, 2, 3].
Any person who experiences dizziness or an off balance sensation with any movement of the neck should consult with a physician to get a diagnosis and start treatment for Cervical Vertigo[1, 2, 3].
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