The condition of vertigo is common amongst senior citizens and in people who have experienced certain brain injuries.
Cervical vertigo is characterized by dizziness, nausea, and general instability. There are many more symptoms that 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.
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Anatomy of the Cervical Spine
The cervical spine is the portion of the spine that exists in the neck. There are seven vertebrae that 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 crucial part of every motion in the human body. Sometimes, however, nerves can become irritated. They become irritated by being pinched, damaged as with traumatic injury, or deteriorate over time. When spinal cord nerves become damaged this condition is called peripheral neuropathy.
Vertigo is classified as causing an individual to experience disorienting dizziness and the 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 of a vessel 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 areas are not receiving proper signals, or in some cases have impeded blood flow, vertigo symptoms can occur.
Signs and Symptoms
Cervical vertigo can have many symptoms, so it is important to be transparent with doctors about what you are experiencing. Some of the symptoms associated with cervical vertigo are:
- Headache or ear pain
- A sensation of movement, even when sitting still
These symptoms may be accompanied by neck pain. They can occur for several minutes and 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 cervical vertigo can vary from patient to patient, so it is important that the condition is diagnosed properly. Some of the common causes of cervical vertigo include:
- Traumatic injury: cervical vertigo symptoms can be caused by “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 occurrence of a spinal disc that is no longer where it should be. Spinal discs are structures that exist between vertebrae and act as a cushion between the bones, 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 structures deteriorate 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.
Diagnosing Cervical Vertigo
Due to the many potential causes of cervical vertigo, doctors must be well-informed about which symptoms patients are experiencing. 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 headaches, 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 other similar tests. 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 analyzes blood vessels to identify abnormalities.
- CT scan: Computed Tomography has the ability to produce a more detailed 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 that could lead to a pinched nerve or blood vessel.
Once doctors have a clearer image of what is occurring, they can move forward with a more precise plan to treat the condition.
Treating Cervical Vertigo
Treatment of cervical vertigo seeks to address the symptoms first and foremost. Many doctors will recommend a prescription or over-the-counter medication 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 that provide support to the neck. Exercising this area in specific ways can lead to a structural change in soft tissue that 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 that may be causing symptoms.
- Surgery: in some extreme cases, surgery may become necessary. This is often the last resort, as it can cause complications and is 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:
- Mesenchymal stem cell therapy: this form of therapy involves taking a patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells from their bone marrow. They are then processed to be more concentrated and reinjected into the problem area. In the cervical spine, they would be injected into the facet joints. Mesenchymal stem cells contain healing properties that are used to repair the damage that has occurred.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy: this form of therapy begins with a blood draw. The blood 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 that allow healing to occur. The concentrated platelet solution is then injected into a patient’s injury site, similar to mesenchymal stem cell injections. Platelets also have a potent anti-inflammatory effect.
These forms of treatment use imaging techniques such as live X-ray (Fluoroscopy) 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 temporary 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 much faster, typically under one week.
For the case of cervical vertigo, these therapies may be administered in the hopes of repairing damaged facet joints. Most patients who have undergone regenerative therapy report reduced pain and symptoms in a matter of weeks.
Looking at 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.