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Vertigo: Great movie, not a great feeling

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POSTED April 16, 2009 5:03 a.m.
If you’ve seen the Hitchcock classic Vertigo, then you know what it means to have that type of dizziness.  But many people don’t understand what it feels like, and how serious it can be. And since so many new patients have come in to the office lately with vertigo, I have done a lot of reading on the subject and thought I should share the information with the public.  Some of the reading was a bit dry and boring and too scientific, so I have attempted to relate only the interesting facts.

 Vertigo is a false sensation that one’s self or the surroundings are moving or spinning, usually accompanied by nausea and loss of balance. It is a type of dizziness, resembling the feeling produced by the childhood game of spinning round and round, and then suddenly stopping and watching the surroundings spin around. The resulting loss of balance makes walking and driving difficult. Nausea, sometimes with vomiting, often accompanies vertigo.

Vertigo may last for only a few moments or may continue for hours or even days. People who have vertigo sometimes feel better when lying down or sitting still; however, vertigo may continue even when they are not moving at all.

Causes
Vertigo can be caused by disorders affecting the inner ear (including the semicircular canals), which enables the body to sense position and maintain balance. Vertigo may also be caused by disorders affecting the acoustic nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain, or disorders affecting the connections in the brain stem and the cerebellum, which also help control balance.

Most commonly, vertigo results from motion sickness. Motion sickness may develop in people whose inner ear is sensitive to particular motions, such as swaying or sudden stopping and starting.

Another common cause of vertigo is the formation of sludge (ew!) in the semicircular canals of the inner ear. The resulting disorder is especially common among older people. It occurs when the head is moved in certain ways.

Meniere’s disease, another disorder of the inner ear, produces attacks of vertigo. The cause of Meniere’s disease is thought to involve swelling in the inner ear. Meniere’s disease may result from a viral infection, an injury, or an allergy, but the cause is often unknown.

Other disorders that cause vertigo by affecting the inner ear or its nerve connections include bacterial or viral infections, tumors, inflammation of nerves, or use of drugs that damage the inner ear. Occasionally, vertigo is caused by disorders that suddenly increase pressure within the skull, putting pressure on the brain.

Finally, my personal favorite cause: Vertigo may be caused by damage to nerves in the neck. If these nerves are damaged, the brain has difficulty monitoring the relative position of the neck and trunk. This type of vertigo is called cervical vertigo. Whiplash injuries, blunt injuries to the top of the head, or severe arthritis in the neck may cause cervical vertigo. Cervical vertigo occurs when the head is turned, especially if the chin is brought down to a shoulder. The neck’s range of motion may be limited.  Both are reasons to be checked by a chiropractor.  Many patients get relief after the first adjustment.  Others take a bit longer, but the result is long lasting and safer than taking drugs.  Indeed, vertigo may be caused by drugs, including the sedative Phenobarbital, the anticonvulsant Dilantin, and the antipsychotic Thorazine.  

If you or someone you know is suffering, and you cannot find relief, try chiropractic. Speaking from personal experience, there is nothing so miserable as vomiting just because you happen to move your head a little bit. Three adjustments of my neck took care of it. Quick,  painless, and no side effects.  If you would like more information, please call the office at 599-2699.

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