Cellaxys

Cervical Vertigo: How A Pinched Nerve Can Cause Chronic Dizziness

By November 1, 2019 No Comments

The condition of vertigo is common in the senior population and in people who have experienced certain brain injuries. The condition is characterized by dizziness, nausea, and general instability. There are many more symptoms which may occur, however, and many potential causes of the condition. Furthermore, there are several different types of vertigo, all with their own symptoms and treatment methods. The condition of cervical vertigo refers to vertigo that is being caused by an abnormality in the neck, also called the cervical spine region. This article will discuss the anatomy of the cervical spine region and the condition, signs and symptoms, what may be causing symptoms, how it is diagnosed and treated, and what alternative therapies may alleviate symptoms.

Anatomy
The cervical spine is the portion of the spine that exists in the neck. There are seven vertebrae which make up the cervical spine. These vertebrae offer support to the head and protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord contains crucial nerve endings, which send signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Nerves are a part of every motion in the human body, meaning that they are particularly important for overall health. Sometimes, however, nerves can become irritated. They become irritated by being pinched, damaged as with traumatic injury, or deteriorate over time. When nerves become damaged this condition is called Neuropathy.

Vertigo is classified by causing an individual to experience a disorienting dizziness and sensation of spinning. It is most common in seniors above the age of 65, but can occur in individuals of any age. The causes of vertigo can vary greatly, from inner ear issues to brain abnormalities.

Cervical vertigo is a condition that is caused by nerve damage or blockage in the cervical spine. When this occurs, nerves cannot send signals to parts of the body associated with stability, such as the inner ear or brain stem. When these are not receiving signals, or in some cases have stunted blood flow, vertigo symptoms can occur.

Signs and Symptoms
Cervical vertigo can have many symptoms so it is important to be honest with doctors about what is occurring. Some of the symptoms associated with cervical vertigo are:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Headache or Ear Pain
  • Sensation of movement, even when sitting still

These symptoms may be accompanied by neck pain. They can occur for several minutes up to hours at a time. In some cases, the symptoms can be triggered by certain exercises or neck positions.

Causes of Cervical Vertigo
The symptoms of vertigo can vary from patient to patient, so it is important that the condition be diagnosed properly. Some of the potential causes of cervical vertigo include:

  • Traumatic Injury: some of the common symptoms of cervical vertigo are also referred to as “whiplash”. Whiplash typically occurs after a car accident or similar trauma. Closed-head injuries can also contribute to the symptoms of cervical vertigo.
  • Herniated or Slipped Disc: this condition refers to the occurence of a spinal disc that is no longer where it should be. Spinal discs are a piece of flesh that exist between vertebrae and act as a cushion between bone, as well as provide support for the spine. If a disc is herniated, it can pinch nerves in the area.
  • Osteoarthritis: the condition of arthritis occurs when soft tissue deteriorates over time. This process is natural, but it can sometimes develop to a point where bone structure becomes impacted, which may lead to pinched nerves or constricted blood vessels.
  • Spinal Disorders: conditions such as scoliosis could contribute to symptoms of vertigo. Some individuals are born with spinal misalignment, which can be benign but sometimes lead to other conditions such as vertigo.

There are some other potential causes of cervical vertigo, these are the most common.

Diagnosis
Due to the many potential causes of cervical vertigo, doctors must be as well-informed as possible about which symptoms are occurring. Testing for cervical vertigo begins with ruling out the presence of other conditions. Conditions that must be ruled out include different types of vertigo (psychogenic and central vertigo, for example), inner ear issues, and migraine, to name a few.

Doctors will do a series of non-invasive tests to determine the source of vertigo. These tests include head movements, monitoring eye movement, and the like. The results of these tests could indicate the presence of cervical vertigo, but doctors will often recommend other types of testing to ensure an accurate diagnosis. These may include:

  • MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging can provide doctors with an image of the patient’s internal soft tissue and could indicate if nerves or blood vessels are being pinched.
  • MRA: Magnetic Resonance Angiography is similar to MRI, but focuses on blood vessels.
  • CT Scan: Computed Tomography has the ability to produce a more 3-D image of a patient’s internal structure.
  • X-Ray Imaging: this imaging technique is used to gain an image of bone structure. In the case of cervical vertigo, doctors may be looking for structural abnormalities which could lead to a pinched nerve or blood vessel.

Once doctors have a more clear image of what is occurring, they can move forward with a more clear idea of how to treat the condition.

Treating Cervical Vertigo
Treatment of cervical vertigo seeks to address the symptoms first and foremost. Many doctors will recommend prescription or over-the-counter medications which may alleviate symptoms. These include NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) such as Ibuprofen, anti-nausea medication, anti-dizziness medication, and muscle relaxants. These can be coupled with other forms of treatment such as:

  • Physical Therapy: the goal of physical therapy is to improve a patient’s range of motion as well as strengthen muscles which provide support to the neck. Exercising this area in specific ways can lead to a structural change in soft tissue which may alleviate some of the symptoms of vertigo.
  • Changes in Daily Life: some doctors may recommend that small adjustments to a patient’s life be made, such as a new pillow or refraining from certain activities which may be causing symptoms.
  • Surgery: in some extreme cases, surgery may become necessary. This is often a last resort, as it can cause complications and is often invasive. Spinal surgery is particularly risky due to the many sensitive nerves in the area. If the underlying cause of cervical vertigo is a herniated disc or spinal abnormality, surgery is more likely to be offered as an option.

Treatment plans often revolve around the underlying cause of the condition. If the cause is simply a pinched nerve or blood vessel, physical therapy is often enough to alleviate symptoms. When the issue is more structural, or is due to injury such as whiplash, the treatment may vary depending on what the doctor thinks is best.

Conventional treatments are relatively successful, but may not be enough to relieve a patient of their symptoms. Alternative therapies such as regenerative medicine may offer new hope for patients suffering from cervical vertigo.

Regenerative Medicine Treatments for Cervical Vertigo
The emerging field of regenerative medicine addresses issues such as cervical vertigo, among many others. Using cutting-edge technology, experts are able to provide treatment for a wide range of conditions. CELLAXYS offers two forms of regenerative medicine:

  • Stem Cell Therapy: this form of therapy involves taking a patient’s own stem cells. These cells are most often harvested from a patient’s bone marrow, blood cells, or fat cells. They are then processed to be more concentrated, then reinjected into the problem area. In the case of cervical vertigo, they would be injected into the neck where the pinched nerve or blood vessel is. Stem cells contain healing properties which could be used to repair damage that has occurred.
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy: this form of therapy begins with a blood draw. The blood sample is then placed in a centrifuge, which is able to separate the platelets from other properties in the blood. Platelets contain proteins and growth factors which allow healing to occur wherever they exist in the body. The concentrated platelet solution is then injected into a patient’s injury site, similarly to stem cell injections.

These forms of treatment use imaging techniques such as MRI or Ultrasound to guide the needle to the injury site. This ensures that treatment is as effective as possible.

Both forms of therapy are outpatient procedures, typically taking less than two hours to complete. Some patients report pain at the injection site. There is a low risk of rejection because it is using the patient’s own cells. Unlike surgery, there is no preparation necessary and the recovery time is under one week.

For the case of cervical vertigo, these therapies may be administered in the hopes of repairing a damaged nerve or blood vessel. Most patients who have undergone regenerative therapy report reduced pain and symptoms in a matter of days.

Looking to alternative medicine for treatment may allow patients to experience minimal symptoms, pain, and improved quality of life. Experts at CELLAXYS are knowledgeable about these procedures and willing to work with patients to ensure that they are receiving the best care available.

Conclusion
Cervical vertigo is a condition involving the neck. There are many potential causes – most can be traced back to a pinched nerve or blood vessel. This pinching can lead to a decreased amount of blood or signals in the brain which causes the symptoms. General instability and dizziness are the most common symptoms, and since there is no way to determine how long symptoms will last, this condition can be life-altering. Individuals experiencing these symptoms often cannot perform normal tasks while they are occurring. Diagnosis can be complicated as there are many other conditions that need to be ruled out before the diagnosis can be made. Doctors use special imaging techniques to determine the cause of symptoms. Treatment may vary based on the cause but generally involves taking better care of the neck area and doing what is possible in order to alleviate symptoms. When considering treatment for cervical vertigo, it is important to consider all of the treatment options on the market – regenerative medicine may be the treatment a patient needs to get back to their normal life.

Dr. Matthew HC Otten

Dr. Matthew HC Otten

Director of Orthopedic & Orthobiologics
Fellowship-trained & Board Certified in Sports medicine
Director Angiography at Harvard Clinical Research Institute
Michigan Stage University Alumni