Experiencing back pain is uncomfortable enough without additional symptoms. But when you get dizzy as well, you might worry about what else could be wrong. If you have neck pain along with dizziness that occurs with specific neck movements, you could be suffering from cervical vertigo. The spine in the neck region plays a significant role in coordination and balance. A bulging disc in this area may be causing your symptoms.
What Is Cervical Vertigo?
Cervical vertigo is a temporary feeling of instability or dizziness that happens when you move your neck in a certain way. Because this type of vertigo isn’t linked with the position of the head or the effects of gravity, it can be disconcerting.
Some of the symptoms of cervical vertigo include:
- Feeling like the world is spinning
- The sensation that you’re spinning even if you’re not moving
- A floating, ungrounded sensation
- Difficulty maintaining your position or gait
- Loss of balance
- Motion sickness, nausea or vomiting
- Diminished coordination
- Pain or ringing in the ears
- Eye problems, such as uncontrolled movements
Making sudden or unusual movements with your neck can exacerbate your symptoms. For example, some people get dizzy after sneezing, turning their heads or exercising. But people with cervical vertigo usually don’t experience loss of muscle strength, which may happen with other spinal conditions.
Although some types of vertigo are caused by inner ear problems, cervical vertigo is related to structural changes in your upper vertebrae. However, it may still be accompanied by fullness, ringing or tingling in the ears.
How is Cervical Vertigo Linked to Bulging Discs?
Studies show that patients with degenerative disc disease in their cervical spine often complain of dizziness. Therefore, if you’re experiencing the symptoms listed above, you might want to be assessed for bulging discs.
Your spine is made up of small chunks of bone that interlock to form a movable column. If the bones didn’t have any cushioning between them, they would rub against each other, cause pain and limit your mobility. Fortunately, we have discs between each vertebra that act as cushions and shock absorbers so that our spine can maintain optimal mobility.
Discs are often described as being similar to jelly donuts. They have a fibrous outer layer, which contains a soft core. As force is exerted on the discs, they distribute the pressure, allowing for pain-free movement.
But gravity and time take their toll on spinal discs. Pressure and movement weaken their outer layer, causing them to bulge out. As they do, they can rub against nerves that extend from the spinal cord in that area. The core of the disc also becomes compressed, further affecting nerves. The shift in the spinal structure influences the surrounding ligaments and soft tissues, worsening the pain.
Bulging Discs in the Neck
When you have bulging discs in the cervical spine, which travel through the neck, the surrounding tissues become inflamed. Because many of the nerves in your neck are connected to the inner ear, putting additional pressure on them can cause symptoms of inner ear problems.
If the affected nerves are connected to a muscle, you’ll typically feel pain and dizziness.
Neck injuries, such as whiplash, can cause bulging discs. However, more subtle injuries can also develop over time from poor posture, lack of exercise or improper spinal support while sleeping. These are known as long-term traumas.
Bulging discs are often responsible for pain in the neck, upper back or shoulders. The discomfort may radiate down the arm and can cause numbness or tingling in the forearms and fingers. This condition can make your neck feel stiff because the swelling and nerve influences limit your mobility.
If you alter your movements to make up for the pain in your neck, you can develop secondary pain from muscle imbalances. To relieve the pain in your neck and prevent it from affecting other areas of your body, seek treatment that addresses the cause of the complaints.
Treatment Options to Get Rid of Cervical Vertigo
When you’re dealing with dizziness, you may not know where to start seeking a solution. The problem could be neurological, structural or even viral. Therefore, many patients have trouble finding relief. You may be told by a neurologist that there’s nothing wrong because imaging of your brain shows no abnormalities. Your eye doctor may have no explanation for your vision problems.
Maybe it’s time to see a spine surgeon. This doesn’t mean that you need spine surgery. In fact, at the practices of Dr. Craig Callewart, we aim to create a treatment plan that involves the least invasive treatment possible. The first step is to diagnose your condition accurately.
We’re equipped with the knowledge, experience and resources to identify the source of your neck pain and dizziness. If you are experiencing cervical vertigo due to a bulging disc, you have a variety of treatment options.
Some address the bulging discs, while others help you manage the vertigo. Combining different treatments is usually the most effective remedy.
How to Treat Cervical Vertigo
Dr. Craig Callewart uses the following methods to treat this condition:
- Physical therapy – Performing targeted exercise can increase range of motion, relieve pressure and build up muscles to support better spinal alignment and posture. Physical therapy may reduce physical discomfort from bulging discs and improve balance and coordination. However, it may not resolve your dizziness.
- Vestibular rehabilitation – This form of therapy is aimed at improving the dizziness that is associated with this condition. It involves strengthening and stretching as well as eye movement and neck movement control and balance training.
- Medications – Anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers can reduce some of your symptoms. You can also take medication to reduce dizziness. However, these treatments don’t resolve the root cause of the problem.
- Spinal adjustments – Physical manipulation can adjust the spine and ease some of the pressure on your discs. Techniques such as spinal decompression are non-invasive. They stretch the spine so that the discs can slide back into place.
- Surgery – If conservative treatments don’t improve your symptoms, you may want to consider surgery. Cervical disc replacement involves replacing the damaged discs with implants. Cervical posterior foraminotomy is a less invasive form of surgery that creates space so that the nerve roots can exit the spinal cord freely. With a cervical posterior fusion, the surgeon fuses sections of the spine with metal rods and screws, relieving compression.
Everyone responds to treatment differently. Therefore, we customize our treatment plans to address the needs of each patient. Dr. Callewart will be with you every step of the way to help you evaluate what’s working and adjust the treatment for the utmost effectiveness.
Have You Identified the Cause of Your Dizziness?
If you have frequent discomfort in your neck that presents with sudden spells of dizziness, you might be suffering from cervical vertigo. Putting an end to your symptoms involves getting the right diagnosis and following a customized care plan. There are many non-invasive treatments for this condition, but surgery may be an option if you have tried conservative methods without success.
Dr. Callewart specializes in spinal conditions like this, and he can help you resolve your symptoms so that you can get your life back. If you’re ready to alleviate your frequent discomfort and discover what’s causing your dizziness, make an appointment at one of our locations in the greater Dallas area.