Cervicogenic Dizziness

How can my neck make me dizzy?

There are many things that can make you experience a sensation of dizziness, the following is a partial list:

The term 'Cervicogenic Dizziness' is a relatively new term in the medical literature. In the past it has been a diagnosis of exclusion (everything else your doctor tests for is negative) but now we are discovering certain signs and symptoms that are common. By recognizing these familiar symptoms we are able to better diagnose your problem and treat it.

The relationship of the neck to dizziness

The neck joints and muscles have small receptors in them that constantly give information to your brain, eyes and inner ear (vestibular system) about where your head is in relationship to your body. A portion of the vestibular system is located in each ear and deep in your brain.  The vestibular system is one of the systems responsible for controlling eye movements, muscular coordination and your balance. The inner ears and eyes tell the vestibular system the position of your head relative to your surroundings. The brain uses this information to regulate movement, posture and balance. If one of these systems is giving inaccurate information then the brain gets confused and may think it is moving or swaying. It is this sensory misunderstanding that creates the sensation of dizziness or lightheadedness so commonly reported. If your neck has limited range of movement, is stiff or painful the information it relays to the brain may be incorrect. Think of your neck as the foundation upon which your brain, eyes, and ears (vestibular system) sits. If that foundation is not perfectly level and functioning normally then the information it sends may be misunderstood.

Treatment

The treatment of cervicogenic dizziness involves restoring full painfree range of movement to the neck muscles and joints. Motor retraining is performed to restore the functional relationships between all the systems (inner-ears, eyes and neck). Many patients have been dependent upon "anti-dizziness" medications like antivert for years. The medication helps with the symptoms but does nothing for the problem. In fact, long term use of the medications may perpetuate the problem by limiting the brains ability to adapt. Our main goal is to correct the orthopedic dysfunctions that are creating the sensory misunderstanding. This is accomplished through the protocol that Frank has developed through his clinical research.

The recovery period varies among individuals but if the problem lies primarily in your neck you will require approximately 4–6 visits. If you also have problems with your inner ears you may require vestibular rehabilitation to accomplish full recovery.

Other contributing factors that may affect your progress include: migraines, P.O.T.S, Fibromyalgia, and cervicogenic headaches.

Research

To date very few studies have been conducted on the subject of cervicogenic dizziness. The difficulty lies in the ability to rule out other causes (as noted above) as a source of the dizziness. No gold standard test yet exists to definitively point to the neck as the cause.

Frank Gargano DPT, OCS, MCTA  completed his doctoral dissertation entitled The Effects of Manual Therapy on Cervicogenic Dizziness. This is the second research project Frank has completed on the subject.

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