In the 1958 Hitchcock film of the same name, vertigo is defined as, “A feeling of dizziness...a swimming in the head...figuratively a state in which all things seem to be engulfed by a whirlpool of terror.”
While the film definition is a bit dramatic, vertigo is generally described as a sensation that the world is spinning, tilting, or swaying. It can be accompanied by many related symptoms, such as lightheadedness, motion sickness, and problems with balance.
If you’ve ever taken a boat ride and then felt rubbery “sea legs” upon stepping onto solid ground, you know the feeling when the world around you isn’t where your body expects it to be. It can be disorienting and even terrifying--like your mind is playing tricks on you.
If any of this sounds like what you’re experiencing, let’s look at possible causes and treatments.
The false sense of rotational movement experienced by Scottie Ferguson in Vertigo is an extremely common symptom caused by many different possible conditions. (In his case, it was brought on by a traumatic event and accompanied by a related but separate malady: acrophobia, a fear of heights.)
Identifying what’s causing your vertigo and how to treat it can be a bit of a winding path too. Spoiler alert: around half of vertigo sufferers never end up identifying the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated!
First, you need to meet with your doctor to try to determine whether you have peripheral vertigo or central vertigo.
Peripheral vertigo is caused by any condition that results in an imbalance in the inner ear. Around 80% of vertigo cases fall into this category. Inner ear conditions that can lead to vertigo include: labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis, cholesteatoma, and Ménière’s Disease.
Let’s look at Ménière’s Disease as an example, since it’s a common cause of vertigo. People with Ménière’s have fluid buildup in the inner ear, which can lead to attacks of vertigo with tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness in the affected ear. The exact cause is not well understood--it might be a blood vessel constriction, a viral infection, or an autoimmune reaction.
Central vertigo is caused by a problem in the central nervous system. This accounts for the remaining 20% of vertigo cases. Examples of conditions that may cause central vertigo include migraines, a head injury, or stroke.
One of the most common causes of central vertigo is migraines, which are extremely common in the United States--about 39 million Americans get migraines regularly. And as many as 40% have vestibular symptoms like vertigo.
Vertigo during pregnancy is also common--perhaps caused by (or related to) nausea, hormonal changes, and balance issues while the body is changing.
As you work with your doctor to determine and treat the possible underlying causes of your vertigo, you can make some basic lifestyle changes that can make a huge difference.
Eat healthy: Aim for a mostly plant-based diet and avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods. Don’t skip meals.
Stay hydrated: Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
Get active: Move your body each day--do yoga, go for walks, ride your bike, dance!
Practice good sleep hygiene: Get eight solid hours of sleep and keep your bedtime consistent.
Manage your stress: Meditate for ten minutes a day. Do breathing exercises.
The beauty here is that you can treat many possible causes of peripheral and central vertigo at once. Here’s why:
Atlas Orthogonal is an advanced chiropractic specialty which requires advanced training and specialty x-ray equipment and other approaches outside conventional chiropractic.
Though there are never any guarantees when it comes to health care, it is reassuring that Dr. David Nygaard is the only Board Certified Upper Cervical Doctor in WNC, and has practiced in WNC since 1997. He has treated many cases of vertigo, often with successful resolution.
Vertigo can make you feel out of control--but please know that many treatment options are available to you!
Set up a consultation with Dr. David Nygaard to discuss your specific experience. We’d love to help get you back on solid ground for good.
Contact us today to learn about Atlas Brain and Body and the many conditions we treat. 828-253-0700