Are you feeling like you’re constantly spinning out of control? At Atlas Chiropractic in Boulder, we understand how debilitating vertigo can be. Our specialized chiropractic approach focuses on realigning your upper cervical spine to potentially ease the dizzy spells and balance issues associated with vertigo. Have you ever felt the room spinning around you or had the feeling that you are on a boat?

Vertigo and dizziness can be very scary and unpredictable. One minute everything is fine and the next it feels like your world is spinning out of control! Yikes! Dizziness is a very common complaint affecting about 20–30% of the general population.

In this blog, we’ll explore how misalignments in your neck could be triggering your symptoms and how our precise, gentle treatments can help restore your stability and improve your overall quality of life.

What causes vertigo?

Vertigo can be caused by an inner ear issue, eye problems, or a fixation (lack of mobility) within the joints of the upper neck. Your ears, eyes, and upper neck are major sensory receptors for your brain. So if any of these sensory centers is having interference or is not functioning properly, it can cause a sensory miscommunication which can lead to many symptoms, including vertigo.

Vertigo is the sensation of motion or spinning and it is not the same as simply feeling lightheaded. It can dramatically affect your daily life and quickly become debilitating. When the room seems to be spinning, it can be difficult to do even the most simple activities like driving, cooking, going to work, and even sleeping. The scariest part of being constantly dizzy is not knowing when an episode will come on or how long it will last.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know where to turn or what to do when they are having these bouts of severe dizziness. One of the best kept secrets to treat vertigo is to be seen by a specialized upper cervical chiropractor. You’re probably wondering, how can chiropractors help with vertigo? First, let me explain what usually happens in the health care system when people are suffering with vertigo.

What most people do when they experience vertigo

For most people they start with one or two episodes of vertigo. Usually they just suffer through the attacks and hope that it goes away. Sometimes the dizziness does eventually go away, but in many cases, the episodes become more frequent and more severe over time. When people start to experience more episodes and more intense vertigo, they usually end up going to the ER in hopes of getting relief. This is understandable, because vertigo is very scary and it can seem like something very serious is wrong. At the ER, the medical doctors will usually do a lot of tests and exams to rule out major issues like stroke, aneurysm, or brain tumor. Those tests are almost always negative and people are usually sent home with a motion sickness drug and maybe a referral to a PT. Unfortunately people are left to deal with their dizziness on their own and with very little resources.

The next step that people usually take is to see a PT to perform something called the Epley’s maneuver. This can be very effective if the vertigo is specifically being caused by crystals in the inner ear. However, this is not always the cause of vertigo which means that Epley’s will not resolve the issue. If you have tried the Epley’s maneuver with little to no success, don’t worry, there is another solution to your vertigo. Something that most people don’t know is that vertigo can be caused by improper biomechanics of the upper neck. Your upper bones way up at the top of your neck are called Atlas and Axis. This area is so important for sensory information into your brain. If the joints are stuck and not moving properly, this causes a sensory mismatch or miscommunication. This miscommunication can cause many symptoms, and a very common one is the feeling of dizziness, imbalance, and vertigo.

The Role of Chiropractic Care in Vertigo Treatment

Chiropractors who specialize in the upper neck are the best people to see in cases of dizziness and vertigo because they have the proper training and tools to find and correct the problem. The first diagnostic tool that they will use when assessing someone with vertigo is called computerized infrared thermography. This tool assesses a real time function of the central nervous system by checking the temperature along the neck and spine. As we talked about before, vertigo is a sensory mismatch disorder that is controlled by the brain and the autonomic nervous system. Once it is established that there is an issue with the central nervous system, the next step is to evaluate the biomechanics of the upper neck. The best way to do this is to take motion rays to see the movement, or lack of movement, within those specific joints. These are unique x-rays that can only be taken by a specialized chiropractor. Once it is analyzed and determined where the problem is, the role of the chiropractor is to give a very specific adjustment to the upper neck to restore proper motion in the stuck joint. There are chiropractors that specialize in the neck and managing cervicogenic vertigo. These chiropractors are called upper cervical chiropractors. There is a lot of research and case studies showing the effectiveness of upper cervical chiropractic with vertigo. It truly is your best and safest option for long term relief.

Research and Evidence of chiropractic and treatment of vertigo

The correlations of altered biomechanics in the upper neck and vertigo have been known for a very long time. Doctors have been studying the relationship between decreased proprioception and cervical vertigo for decades. This is not new information, yet it seems to be uncommon or ignored by many physicians.

Ryan and Cope in 1955 proposed that abnormal sensory information from the damaged joint receptors of upper cervical regions may be related to pathologies of vertigo of cervical origin.

Even though it is well documented that altered and decreased motion in the upper cervical region of the neck can lead to dizziness and vertigo, the average person has no idea that chiropractic can be a great solution for this debilitating disorder! Good thing you are reading this article because this adjustment is what can free you from this awful experience.

Luckily there is more and more research being done to show the safety and efficacy of this treatment and unique approach, especially in the upper cervical world of chiropractic.

Review of studies and clinical trials supporting the effectiveness of chiropractic care for vertigo treatment

In this study titled “Upper cervical spine dysfunction and dizziness”, researchers found that the problems that occur in the ligaments or muscles of the upper cervical spine can cause confusion in proprioception. This means that the issue at the top of the neck sends improper information to the brain. These changes can convey misinformation to the vestibular nucleus, resulting in abnormal responses by the brain that can lead to cervicogenic dizziness. When dizziness is directly coming from the neck it is called Cervicogenic dizziness.

Recently, Chu et al. (2019) suggested that if vestibular and cardiovascular pathologies have been ruled out, cervicogenic dizziness (CGD) should be suspected. Takahashi (2018) reported that 90% of the 1,000 patients in his study with general dizziness had CGD. 90 percent! Wow! That means if a patient doesn’t have a blood flow issue and the Epley’s maneuver has not been effective, there is a 90 percent chance that the vertigo is being caused by altered biomechanics of the upper cervical spine! This further supports the claim that seeing an upper cervical chiropractor is your best option to resolve vertigo and cervicogenic dizziness, especially when all other causes of the dizziness have been ruled out. Your chance of relief is extremely high.

Let’s discuss another published case study called “Resolution of Cervicogenic Dizziness and Upper Cervical Pain in a 49-Year-Old Female Receiving Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic Care”.

In this study, a 49-year-old female was experiencing constant vertigo and neck pain. She had tried multiple interventions with little to no success. After one year of consistent care with a specialized upper cervical chiropractor who knew exactly how to assess and treat the upper neck, she was symptom free of vertigo and neck pain! Incredible! The upper cervical protocol was utilized alongside a thorough medical history, orthopedic tests, and specialized x-rays. More studies need to be done to further support this treatment, but there are many case studies showing the effectiveness of upper cervical chiropractic and the successful treatment and resolution of vertigo.

Stories of success of overcoming vertigo at Atlas Chiropractic of Boulder

We have seen many success stories of patients overcoming vertigo right here in our office in Boulder. Julie was experiencing extreme vertigo constantly for over a year and despite seeing many different providers, her medical doctors were not giving her any answers. She had done all the typical vertigo exercises like the Epley’s maneuver and nothing was really working. She went online and searched the term “vertigo treatment near me.” Luckily, she found our office and made an appointment with one of our specialized doctors. She was delighted that when she called the office, she was actually able to speak to one of the doctors personally and have all her questions answered. Once she came in for her appointment, we did a full history and multiple orthopedic exams to get a full picture of what has been going on with her health. Then we took multiple thermography scans to see how her nervous system was functioning. We finished the initial exam by taking specific biomechanical x-rays to determine a treatment plan for her.

Once she started care, Julie immediately noticed a difference. Her vertigo decreased in frequency and intensity over time. After 7 months of care, she no longer had any symptoms and now she has been vertigo free for over a year!! Incredible! The best part about this story is that Julie now has her life back. When she first came in, we asked her what she was hoping to get out of care and she said “freedom”. She simply wanted to be able to plan her day, weekends, activities with her friends and family without debilitating dizziness or the embarrassment of having to constantly cancel plans. She now has the freedom back to live the life she wants without fear of another vertigo attack! We are so honored to have been able to help her recover from vertigo.


Common questions and concerns related to chiropractic care for vertigo

One of the most common questions we get in the office when talking to patients about vertigo is, “why hasn’t my medical doctor told me about this?”

We know this can be frustrating. The reality is that most medical doctors have no idea that there are chiropractors who specialize in neurological disorders like vertigo, concussions, and migraines. To be honest, the chiropractic profession has not done a great job at educating the public and other health care providers about what chiropractic can actually do and who we can help.

Do I have to go to a chiropractor forever?

The short answer is no. Most people come into the office once in a while after their initial treatment plan to make sure everything is functioning correctly and that their vertigo does not come back. Just like you go to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned to prevent a cavity or root canal, it is a good idea to make routine maintenance visits to ensure everything is functioning the way that it should.

Does getting adjusted hurt?

The adjustment can be uncomfortable in the beginning as we are re-aligning the soft tissue and breaking up the scar tissue that is preventing proper movement. However, the treatment is not painful, it is very safe, and a little soreness is the most common side effect.

Do I have to also have neck pain for chiropractic to help my vertigo?

Not everyone has neck pain and vertigo together, but many do. Oftentimes people come in the office for vertigo and mention that they also have issues with their neck. If you are not suffering from neck pain as well, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a biomechanical problem in your upper neck. The reason is that you need to have a diagnostic test and x-rays to see the issue and not just follow the symptoms.

Can my vertigo get worse when getting adjusted?

Very rarely symptoms can be a little more intense at the beginning of care as things begin to shift out of their stuck position. This usually doesn’t last longer than a week or two. Most people that have experienced an increase of symptoms in the beginning report a drastic decrease of vertigo episodes once they get through this rough patch.

How long will it take for my vertigo to go away?

Everyone is different and has different responses to care. The major determining factors in the timeline it takes to get resolution is your age and how long you have had vertigo. Typically the younger you are and the shorter time frame that you have been dealing with dizziness will mean that you will heal faster. Most people feel a dramatic difference in their symptoms in the first four to six weeks.

What else can I do to help the treatment?

When starting care we recommend that you do not do multiple treatments at once. This can be over stimulating to the brain. It is best to do one treatment plan at a time. Stress is a big factor in triggering vertigo symptoms. One of the best practices you can have while under care is to do regular meditation. Keeping your brain at a rest and digest state will help you heal fast and have more symptom free days. Another big factor is decreasing your phone use. Cell phones cause so much damage to your health and especially so when it comes to vertigo and dizziness.

Are all Chiropractic treatments the same?

Absolutely not! A chiropractor who specializes in the neck and top two bones is the kind of chiropractor that you need to see if you are suffering from vertigo or dizziness. You definitely do not want to go to someone that is not familiar with handling these types of cases. You also want to make sure they are using objective measurements when evaluating your symptoms.

Suffering from vertigo? Here is your next step

There is no reason that you should suffer with vertigo for one more day. Even if you think you have tried everything, I can almost guarantee you have not had the upper cervical region of your neck evaluated. Like we talked about earlier in the guide, your top bones in the neck can cause severe vertigo and dizziness if not moving properly. All the research points to this area as one of the main components in causing vertigo.

In conclusion, vertigo doesn’t have to dictate your life. At Atlas Chiropractic, we’re dedicated to helping you regain your balance and stability through targeted chiropractic care. Our approach focuses on addressing the potential root causes of your vertigo by ensuring your spine and nervous system are functioning optimally. If you’re tired of feeling like you’re spinning out of control and are looking for a natural, non-invasive way to manage your symptoms, consider giving chiropractic care a try.

If you are tired of feeling like you are on a tilting ride at the fair, simply call our office at 303-442-5911 or fill out the web form and speak directly to one of our doctors. We would love to help you get back to being you and living the life that you deserve.