Vertigo is the sensation of spinning. You may feel as if you or the things around you are spinning. Vertigo is the false sense of motion. Children often create the feeling of vertigo by spinning around and around until they feel dizzy. This type of vertigo is called self-induced vertigo and only lasts for a few minutes. However, vertigo that happens spontaneously or due to an injury can last many hours or even days. If you feel as if you yourself are moving, this is called subjective vertigo. If you feel as if your surroundings are moving, this is called objective vertigo.
How the Balance System Functions
We often take for granted the way our balance system works. Most people don’t find it difficult to walk across a gravel driveway and then onto the grass or get out of bed in the middle of the night without stumbling and falling. However, if our balance system becomes impaired, such activities can be dangerous. Along with unsteadiness, you may also experience dizziness, vertigo, hearing and vision issues, and problems with concentration and memory.
When we talk about balance, we are talking about the body’s ability to maintain its center of mass over its base of support. A balance system that is properly functioning allows you to do many things:
- See clearly when you’re in motion
- Remain oriented with respect to gravity
- Determine how fast and in what direction you’re moving
- Make automatic adjustments to your posture to maintain stability
Balance comes about and is maintained due to a complex set of sensorimotor control systems that include the following:
- Sensory input from vision — sight
- Proprioception — touch
- The vestibular system – motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation
This sensory input is combined with output to the eyes and the body muscles. If one or more of these components are rendered ineffective due to injury, disease, certain medications, or the aging process, the balance system can be affected negatively.
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How the Body Maintains Balance
Maintaining balance is dependent upon the information that the brain gets from three peripherals sources: the eyes, muscles and joints, and the vestibular system.
- The eyes: The retina contains sensory receptors called cones and rods. Rods are believed to be for vision in low light situations. Cones assist with color vision and the finer details of life. When the light comes in contact with the rods and cones, they send impulses to the brain that give visual clues as to how a person is oriented in relation to other objects around them.
- The muscles and joints: Information from the skin, joints, and muscles include sensory receptors that are sensitive to stretching or pressure in the surrounding tissues. For example, when a person leans forward, increased pressure is felt in the front part of the feet. Therefore, if any part of the body (the legs, arms, or other body parts) is moving, sensory receptors react by sending signals to the brain. The sensory impulses that come from the neck and the ankles are particularly important. Signals from the neck indicate in which direction the head is being turned. Signals from the ankles indicate which way the body is moving or swaying in relation to where you are standing. Even the quality of the surface on which you are standing, for example, hard, slippery, or uneven, is sensed.
- The vestibular system: The vestibular apparatus, including the utricle, saccule, and three semicircular canals of the inner ear, sends movement signals to the brain about motion, spatial orientation, and equilibrium. The utricle and saccule detective gravity and linear movement. The semicircular canals detect rotation and are located at right angles to each other. They are filled with a fluid called endolymph. When the head rotates in a direction, it is sensed by a particular canal, the fluid contained within lags behind due to inertia. This puts pressure on the canal’s sensory receptor, and it then sends impulses to the brain about the movement from the specific canal being stimulated. If the vestibular organs on each side of the head are working properly, they will send symmetrical impulses to the brain.
So, What Causes Vertigo?
Now that we know how the body maintains balance, we must ask how this can lead to vertigo in some people. If the sensory systems mentioned above begin to send conflicting signals to the brain, vertigo can be the end result. If the eyes tell the brain one thing is going on with the body, but the ears tell the brain that something entirely different is happening, the brain becomes confused. What causes different signals to be sent? It may have to do with a misaligned bone in the upper cervical spine.
The C1 and C2 vertebrae were created to be a protection for the delicate brainstem, part of the central nervous system. However, if either of these bones becomes misaligned due to a blow to the head or neck or similar injury, the brainstem begins sending improper signals to the brain. This can lead to conflicting signals from one of the sensory inputs.
Finding Relief for Vertigo
By correcting what is wrong in the neck, it has been repeatedly seen that vertigo improves. Here at Upper Cervical of Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls, Idaho, we use a specialized method that is based on scientific measurements to help realign the bones of the upper cervical spine. The technique is gentle, not requiring any type of force, such as popping or cracking the spine, to relocate the bones. They are encouraged to move back into place on their own, leading to a longer-lasting adjustment and less stress on the body. Once corrected, many patients report seeing their vertigo improve or go away completely.
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