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Sporting Accidents Among Vertigo Culprits; New Treatment Promising

By Erin Elster, DC

MAUI NEWS - January 24, 2014

A new treatment focusing upon cervical (neck) injuries shows promise for patients with chronic dizziness and vertigo. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research (JVSR,) 60 patients with chronic dizziness and vertigo disorders were evaluated for misalignments in their upper neck vertebrae. In all subjects, cervical misalignments were discovered and then treated.  All 60 cases responded to treatment. In 48 cases, chronic vertigo ceased. Twelve cases experienced fewer and less severe vertigo episodes.

Because vertigo is a brain disorder that has been frequently linked to head trauma, it was theorized that correction of trauma-induced cervical misalignments may positively impact vertigo.

Of the 60 vertigo patients, there were nine positional vertigo (BPPV) cases, 27 cervicogenic cases, three disembarkment cases, two labyrinthitis cases, eleven Meniere’s cases, and eight migraine-associated vertigo (MAV) cases. Patients ranged in age from twelve to 73 years and had experienced vertigo between one and 37 years. All patients had been diagnosed by their physicians and many had suffered for years and “had tried everything” to find relief including but not limited to medications, vestibular therapy, cervical exercises, physical therapy, massage, rolfing, acupuncture, herbs, cervical manipulation, Chinese medicine, and biofeedback.

According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, over 35% of US adults over the age of 40 (69 million Americans) have experienced vertigo at some point in their lives.  Symptoms are caused by dysfunction of the vestibular system - the balance system - which includes the eyes, inner ear, upper neck, musculoskeletal system, and brainstem. 

A variety of symptoms can occur in people with vertigo disorders: vertigo (rotational or spinning sensation), dizziness (lightheadedness, faintness, or unsteadiness,) involuntary eye movements (nystagmus,) brain fog, nausea / vomiting, hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus,) ear pressure, fatigue, and cognitive and memory problems.

Diagnosis of the type of vertigo may occur through eye movement tests, rotation tests, and hearing tests.

Various vertigo risk factors have been named including aging, viral infection, and antibiotic poisoning, to name a few. Another common causal factor - head trauma - was the basis for the JVSR study.

Of the 60 patients in the JVSR study, 56 recalled at least one traumatic event prior to his or her vertigo onset. The most common traumas included whiplash and/or concussion sustained as a result of auto accidents (25 patients); sporting accidents, such as skiing, cycling, or horseback riding (sixteen patients); or falls on slippery sidewalks or down stairs (six patients.) The duration between the traumatic event and vertigo onset ranged from just a few months to multiple years.

One patient in the study, for example, was involved in an auto accident, in which she sustained a cervical injury and wore a hard cervical collar for two months.  Subsequent to the accident, she began suffering from chronic vertigo (labyrinthitis) for 10 years, until undergoing the study treatment; whereby, the vertigo ceased.

Even in cases where the study subjects did not recall incidences of head or neck trauma prior to their vertigo onset, upper cervical misalignments were found.  In fact, all 60 cases showed evidence of cervical injury when two diagnostic tests – thermal imaging and cervical x-ray – were performed.

The evaluation and treatment protocol administered in the study was a specialized form of chiropractic care, known as Upper Cervical Chiropractic. After determining a diagnosis of cervical injury, each patient’s injured neck was corrected by administering a precise adjustment by hand on a specially-designed knee chest table. Vertigo was resolved in the study subjects between 1 and 6 months of care.

Vertigo is a debilitating disorder which affects the quality of life of millions of people. The relationship between head trauma, vertigo onset, and upper cervical treatment provides hope for these patients.

The vertigo research discussed above was performed by Upper Cervical Chiropractor, Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., and is available on her website: www.erinelster.com. For more information, please contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or erin@erinelster.com.