Oftentimes in the days following a car collision, individuals may describe symptoms of light-headedness, feeling off-balance, having the sensation that the world spins around them, or the other way around, feeling that they are spinning and the world remains stationary. In many cases, these sensations are caused by dizziness that follows a head trauma or neck injury.
The most common cause of dizziness is due to neck trauma – or what’s called cervicogenic dizziness. Major traumas such as car crashes (or even micro-traumas, such as holding your head in an awkward position for a prolonged period) may result in misalignments of the vertebrae in the neck and irritation to the neck muscles. Abnormal motions in the vertebral joints can disrupt the activity of proprioceptors, which are nerves that help the brain establish the location of your body, and prevent the postural control system of your brain from accessing this crucial data, resulting in dizziness.
Cervicogenic dizziness often occurs as a result of a whiplash injury, when the neck muscles and ligaments stretched and then snapped back into place at a high velocity. Depending on the type of accident and the health of the person involved, whiplash can hurt the vertebrae, ligaments, disks, or the spinal cord itself. Even less severe neck afflictions can cause swelling and chronic pain that reduces the quality of life significantly.
Another common type of post-traumatic dizziness that gives individuals an intense spinning sensation is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV. As its name suggests, BPPV is not caused by a serious disease, comes on intermittently, and is often exacerbated by turning movements such as rotating the head. There is typically a delay of 1 or 2 seconds between the movement and the onset of dizziness, and the episodes can last anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes.
Symptoms of BPPV are commonly triggered by tilting the head, rolling over in bed, waking up from sleep, or looking up. In addition to cervicogenic dizziness, patients with BPPV also experience lightheadedness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, sweating, nausea, and in some cases, vomiting.
What Your Chiropractor Can Do for Your Dizziness
Adjustments to the affected regions are key to regaining normal feedback and activation to the vestibular regions and can help relieve dizziness and vertigo. Your chiropractor will primarily use manipulation, targeting joints that are not moving properly, and several other therapies to restore your body’s balance. Here are some of the specific ways in which your chiropractor can speed up your recovery:
The Epley Maneuver. Through special positioning maneuvers, such as the Epley Maneuver, chiropractors can help relieve symptoms of dizziness in less than two weeks. During treatment, the chiropractor pivots the head of a patient into a series of different positions, allowing gravity to relocate the calcium residue into areas of the inner ear that cannot affect any nerve endings, so that they will cause no further dizziness.
Muscle stimulation. One of the first steps in the recovery from acute vertigo is vestibular electrical stimulation, a superficial electrical stimulation of neck muscles, intended to decrease antigravitary failure and increase proprioceptive cervical sensory substitution.
Physical exercise. Your chiropractic treatment plan for dizziness will likely include certain physical exercises you will be instructed to perform at home. In one exercise, your chiropractor will ask you to be seated in an upright position on the edge of a bed and move first into the lying position to one side, back upright, then to the other side, at intervals of about 30 seconds or until the vertigo subsides. Tai-chi practices may also help due to their soft-paced, controlled movements, and provide a safe way to focus on your body’s balance.
Nutrition guidance. Stimulants or depressants of the nervous system such as tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, sleeping pills, antihistamines, and others are likely to become triggers for dizziness. Your chiropractor will discuss your diet and daily habits to pinpoint potential causes for vertigo and suggest healthy alternatives. Breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation are also likely suggestions to help you regain control over your body.
If you have been in a motor vehicle accident recently and you are experiencing symptoms of dizziness and vertigo, visiting a licensed chiropractor right away will significantly speed up your recovery. Through a thorough examination of the cervical spine, your chiropractor can identify the factors that are causing your dizziness, diagnose your condition correctly, and formulate a custom treatment plan to address your symptoms and help restore your health.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.