The room is spinning, disorientation sets in, and nausea and vomiting begins. You must have vertigo. Vertigo is one of the most common conditions that chiropractors treat. In this week’s blog, we will discuss what vertigo is, and explain what chiropractors can do to help. 

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo is a sense of feeling off balance along with a series of dizzy spells that may last a few minutes to a few hours. The residual off balance feeling may last a few days post vertigo attack. Other symptoms of vertigo include nausea, vomiting, nystagmus, headache, sweating, ringing in the ears, or hearing loss. Many conditions such as Meniere’s disease, BPPV and labyrinthitis cause vertigo.

Did You Know That Vertigo Isn’t an Eye Problem?

When patients experience vertigo, they think it’s an eye problem because their surroundings appear to spin. Vertigo is actually an inner ear problem. Below is a diagram of the ear.
Anatomy of the outer, middle and inner ear.

According to the diagram, the ear contains three distinct parts:

  1. Outer Ear
    1. The outer ear is the mast visible part of the ear. It is made of cartilage and contains glands that secrete earwax. The funnel shape directs sound into the ear that hits the ear drum.
  2. Middle Ear
    1. The middle ear begins on the other side of the ear drum that house the three smallest bones in the human body: incus, malleus and stapes. They transfer sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The middle ear also houses the eustachian tube, which helps equalize pressure in the ears.
  3. Inner Ear
    1. The inner ear contains two main parts:
      1. Cochlea-responsible for hearing. The snail shaped structure contains two fluid-filled chambers lined with tiny hairs. When sound enters, the fluid inside of the cochlea causes the tiny hairs to vibrate, sending electrical impulses to the brain.
      2. Semicircular Canals-responsible for balance. They tell the brain which direction the head is moving.

How is the Nervous System Connected to Vertigo?

In last week’s blog about sore throats, we talked about how the brain is home to twelve cranial nerves and how they are associated with the Peripheral Nervous System. The eighth cranial nerve is known as the vestibulocochlear nerve. The function of cranial nerve 8 is to provide hearing and balance for the human body.

If you recall from last week’s blog, unlike nerve roots, the cranial nerves do not originate or innervate with the spinal cord. Rather, they originate from different structures of the brain and exit through different openings of the skull called foramen. From there, they travel to their designated areas to provide function. 

The 8th cranial nerve is divided into two parts:

  1. Vestibulo-responsible for balance and spatial orientation with coordinating eye movement with balance.
  2. Cochlear- responsible for hearing.

The 8th cranial nerve therefore innervates both structures of the ear to provide hearing and balance. The semicircular canals of the inner ear contain a fluid called endolymph that moves along with head movement. Within the canals are calcium deposited crystals called canaliths that help detect head movement. When the crystals move from their designated location, they move freely with the fluid through the canals that stimulate vertigo.

How Can Chiropractors Treat Vertigo?

How can chiropractors treat vertigo if specific nerve roots from the spinal cord don’t innervate with the vestibulocochlear nerve?  If you recall from last week’s discussion, the Central Nervous System includes the brain and spinal cord. The brain sends and receives signals to and from the spinal cord allowing human movement, sensation, reflexes, and entire body function. When nerve interference is present, whether it’s a spinal nerve or a cranial nerve, a notification is sent to the brain so that the body can begin fighting the interference.

At our office, vertigo is one of the most common conditions we treat. Providing a series of cervical adjustments primarily at the C6 disc level shows significant improvement. Using our video fluoroscopy device, we know exactly what to adjust.

Think back to our cell phone tower example. The antenna is the brain and the rod inserted in the bottom is the spinal cord. When the cell tower is in close range, reception is strong, but as we move further away, reception weakens; however, we still have reception. The cranial nerves may not be close to the brain once they exit the skull, but their origin is still the brain, and a communication signal is still achievable. 

In Conclusion

When routine spinal adjustments are performed, nervous system and brain activity are enhanced, thus improving many conditions that you would never expect a chiropractor to treat such as vertigo. 

If you have any questions about how we can help with vertigo, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and check out our website, for more information.

Yours in Health,

Brian M. Steinert, D.C.

Larry E. Wilkins, D.C.