Vertigo is the term often used to describe any type of dizziness. "Dorland's Medical Dictionary" indicates that vertigo is a type of dizziness associated with an illusion of movement, often a spinning sensation, which may be from a disease of the inner ear or from disturbances in pathways in the nervous system. Chiropractic treatment is an option for the treatment of certain types of vertigo.
Chiropractic manipulation targets joints that are moving improperly. In the upper neck, faulty motion patterns can result in misinformation about body position and movement being communicated from the joints to the brain. This type of vertigo, called cervicogenic vertigo, is more likely to benefit from chiropractic manipulation. In a study published in the October 1991 "Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics," chiropractor Don Fitz-Ritson reported a 90 percent success rate when treating this type of vertigo with manipulation.
The inner ear houses the body's true balance center, the vestibulocochlear system. This complex system of fluid-filled tubes lined with hair-like sensors provides information to the central nervous system about position and movement. In some individuals, debris may accumulate in the vestibulocochlear apparatus. If this debris settles on sensitive areas within the tubes, it may result in vertigo. If the source of a patient's vertigo appears to be the inner ear, a chiropractor may assist her through a specific procedure such as the Epley Maneuver to attempt to reposition the debris to a more innocuous position. A detailed description of the Epley Maneuver is included in "Resources" below.
The chiropractor may recommend specific exercises that target the vestibulocochlear system. Brandt-Daroff exercises, in which the person sits on the edge of his bed and alternately flops on first one side, back upright, then to the other side at 1-minute intervals are an example. These exercises are described in a successful case study reported in the "Scientific World Journal" in 2006. Other exercises, such as tai chi may also be recommended. The slow, controlled movements of tai chi may provide a safe mode of exercise focusing on body-awareness and balance.
An analysis of diet and other lifestyle factors may help the chiropractor and the patient identify potential triggers to vertigo attacks. Things like tobacco, alcohol and caffeine that stimulate or depress the nervous system may play a role. According to the "Merck Manual of Health and Aging," non-prescription sleep aids or antihistamines can contribute to increased feelings of dizziness or vertigo. The chiropractor may also address strategies such as meditation, relaxation or breathing techniques to help control the symptoms.