What To Know About Cervical Vertigo

Have you ever felt dizzy, imbalanced, and sick to your stomach for no apparent reason? If you did, you might have experienced cervical vertigo. According to the Cleveland Clinic, cervical vertigo (aka cervicogenic dizziness) can be caused by inflammation or neck and head injuries. Neck pain, dizziness, nausea, visual issues, trouble walking, and a lack of coordination mark cervical vertigo. Unlike regular vertigo, cervical vertigo usually doesn't cause a spinning sensation. Instead, WebMD says cervical vertigo can make you feel light-headed, heavy-headed, faint, or unsteady. 

There are no laboratory tests to help differentiate cervical vertigo from other types of vertigo, so a diagnosis is often reached by excluding different kinds of dizziness, including those that induce spinning sensations. And because symptoms often overlap with other conditions like traumatic brain injury and inner ear problems, Spine Universe cautions that reaching a conclusive diagnosis can be difficult. Here's what you should know about cervical vertigo.

Cervical vertigo can be caused by injury or inflammation

Cervical vertigo can result from minor trauma, like whiplash from a small car accident (via Spine Universe). Or it can be a response to a major injury, like a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Arthritis and poor posture can also trigger cervical vertigo. WebMD says it can be caused by herniated disks, inflammation, or even abnormally high muscle tone. Whatever the cause, symptoms may not appear for months or even years after an injury. 

The cervical spine comprises the seven topmost vertebrae of the spine's 24 total vertebrae. Nerves carry messages between the body and the brain through the spinal cord. When muscles around the cervical spine are inflamed or injured, those nerves are also affected. Healthline says this can cause dizziness and balance problems, ear ringing, headache, neck pain, nausea, and trouble focusing. 

WebMD recommends massaging affected areas, especially around the neck, base of the skull, shoulders, and pectoral muscles. Vestibular therapies like eye movement, neck movements, walking exercises, and balance exercises can help relieve symptoms of cervical vertigo. And if all else fails, Healthline says muscle relaxers, pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or anti-dizziness drugs could help you find relief.