Cervical Vertigo, also known as cervicogenic dizziness, is a sensation occurring in the neck. It makes the person feel as if they are spinning or their surroundings are moving, even when they’re not. Cervical Vertigo is often caused by poor neck posture, certain neck disorders, or any trauma sustained by the cervical spine.
Cervical Vertigo can also be caused by a head injury that disturbs the alignment of the head & the neck, or by experiencing whiplash. The dizziness associated with Cervical Vertigo often occurs when you move your neck. This dizziness can also hamper your sense of balance & concentration in your everyday life.
Cervical Vertigo causes:
There are a number of possible causes for cervical vertigo. Some of these causes include blockage of arteries in the neck due to hardening, a condition known as atherosclerosis, or tearing of these arteries, also known as dissection. The signature dizziness of Cervical Vertigo is caused by a reduction in the blood flow to the inner ear & the brain stem. In some cases, Arthritis, surgery, & neck trauma can also cause disruption in blood supply to the inner ear, leading to cervical vertigo.
Another possible cervical vertigo cause is cervical spondylosis, also known as advanced neck osteoarthritis. This condition causes wear & tears in the neck disks & vertebrae. This causes degeneration, which in turn puts pressure on the spinal cord & the spinal nerves, & reduces blood flow to the inner ear & the brain stem.
A slipped disk, also called a herniated disk, can also be a cervical vertigo cause. When the inner ear doesn’t get enough blood supply, it affects the functioning of the body’s natural vestibular system. The Vestibular system is responsible for coordinating with the brain & maintaining balance in the body. A malfunction in any part of the vestibular system causes dizziness & vertigo-like sensations.
Doctors are still researching the actual causes of Cervical Vertigo, as not much is known about the condition yet.
What are Cervical Vertigo symptoms?
One of the most common Cervical Vertigo symptoms is dizziness that spontaneously occurs from a sudden movement of the head or the neck. Other cervical vertigo symptoms include:
- Ear pain or ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus
- Neck pain
- Loss of balance & coordination while walking, sitting, or standing
- Trouble with focus & concentration
The dizziness arising from Cervical Vertigo can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. You may notice that the dizziness subsides when the neck pain decreases. Similarly, you may notice that your symptoms worsen when you indulge in exercises, rapid movements, & sneezing forcefully.
Cervical Vertigo diagnosis:
Cervical Vertigo diagnosis can be extremely tricky & difficult. This is because cervical vertigo symptoms resemble those of other kinds of vertigo as well. For this reason, doctors have to eliminate every other possible cause of vertigo other than cervical vertigo, to reach a proper diagnosis.
These conditions can include:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
- Central vertigo, which can be caused by a stroke, a tumor, or multiple sclerosis
- Psychogenic vertigo
- Inner ear disorders like Meniere’s Disease or vestibular neuritis
After ruling out any other potential causes of your symptoms, your doctor may give you a head rotation test. In this, they will rotate your head in certain directions & movements & check for any accompanying abnormal eye movements, also called nystagmus. If nystagmus is present, it means you likely have cervical vertigo.
Some other tests that your doctor might use to confirm the diagnosis are:
- A neck MRI scan
- An MRA, Magnetic Resonance Angiography
- Vertebral doppler ultrasound
- Vertebral angiography
- Flexion-extension x-ray of the cervical spine
- Evoked potential tests, which are used to measure the spinal cord & brain pathways in the nervous system
Cervical Vertigo treatment:
Cervical Vertigo treatment hinges on treating the underlying cause of the condition. If you experience neck pains &/or are suffering from a degenerative neck disease, stick to your treatment plan to reduce your additional vertigo symptoms.
As part of cervical vertigo treatment, your doctor may prescribe you cervical vertigo medicines to reduce symptoms like neck tightness, dizziness, & pain. Common cervical vertigo medicines include:
- muscle relaxants like tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine to reduce tension or tightening in the neck area
- Analgesics, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or tramadol to reduce the severity of vertigo symptoms & balance problems
- anti-dizziness drugs, like Antivert or scopolamine to counter dizziness
Your doctor may also recommend cervical vertigo exercises like Vestibular Rehabilitation therapy, to improve your neck pain & range of motion of neck muscles. Stretching exercises, therapy, posture training, & various neck exercises can also help improve various cervical vertigo symptoms like neck pain & loss of balance. In certain cases, chiropractic maneuvers & heat compress may also help alleviate cervical vertigo symptoms. However, these will only be recommended if you don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions that can interfere with this mode of cervical vertigo treatment.
Cervical Vertigo is a treatable disorder. When diagnosed in time, doctors can treat it effectively with a combination of cervical vertigo exercises, medicines, & other therapies.
You should try your best not to self-diagnose your condition, as it’s possible to mistake your symptoms for some other vestibular condition.