Vertigo Cervical Headache
What is Vertigo Cervical Headache?
Vertigo Cervical headache, also known as Vertigo Migraine or Vestibular Migraine, is a common cause for symptoms such as dizziness, unsteadiness or vertigo. Head pain or migraine symptoms may also be present during an attack; however, they can be absent .
Common migraine symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting can occur, and if pain is felt it can be both unilateral or bilateral. Sufferers often describe symptoms that are exacerbated by sudden movements of the head, turning their head a specific direction or even when maintaining one head position for a long period of time. Visual inputs, such as; bright or flickering lights, and disturbances like looking down the aisle at the grocery store can also trigger an attack. It is common for symptoms to be worse when there is some stiffness in the neck .
The main symptoms that people with Vertigo Cervical Migraine experience are:
- Vertigo: Is the sensation where you feel that the environment is spinning around you. Involuntary eye movements can be experiences because of contraction of the muscles around the eye. This is an external sensation
- Dizziness: this is described as; light-headedness, heavy-headedness, an un-steady feeling or fogginess and wooziness. It is an internal sensation.
- Imbalance: This is a sensation of feeling un-steady on your feet. You may over-correct your balance and sway from side-to-side.
- Headache or Migraine: Pain from headache or migraine can be felt in the head during an attack. However, it can also be completely absent. Symptoms of migraine, such as; aura, nausea or vomiting can occur in this case.
Because of the similarity of these symptoms with other conditions, Vertigo Cervical Headache is often wrongly diagnosed as:
- Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Meniere’s Disease
A thorough assessment should be able to differentiate between these conditions, in order to establish the correct cause and then the right treatment for your condition.
What is BPPV?
BPPV is a condition that affects the inner ear. Small calcified crystals can become dislodged in the canals of the inner ear, that can alter your bodies perception of balance and head position, causing vestibular symptoms. The similarity of these symptoms to those of Vestibular Migraine mean that sufferers of Vestibular Migraine are misdiagnosed by health professionals as having BPPV .
What is Labyrinthitis?
The Labyrinth is a structure found in the inner ear, often considered a ‘balancing centre’. Inflammation to the labyrinth, often from infection, can cause sufferers to experience difficulty with their balance. Most commonly, Labyrinthitis is caused by a viral infection like cold or flu, or from the herpes viral group (chickenpox, shingles or cold sores). Ear infections can also lead to inflammation of the labyrinth .
Diagnosis involves tests such as;
- Hearing tests
- Balance Tests
- Head Position tests
- Blood Pressure tests
- Scans or other medical investigations
What is Meniere’s Disease?
Symptoms like; dizziness and vertigo; ringing in the ears, hearing loss and congestion in the ear, can be caused by Meniere’s Disease. This is when there is a build-up of fluid in the labyrinth. This fluid build-up alters the normal signals that this balancing centre sends to the brain, causing abnormal symptoms.
Meniere’s Disease typically affects people aged 40-60, however it can be experienced across all ages .
What is the cause of Vertigo Cervical Headache?
Modern research suggests that the convergence of nerves from the vestibular system into the brainstem located in the upper neck is the root cause of vestibular migraines. Injury to the neck (like whiplash or from head injury) or dysfunction in the neck from poor posture can cause this brainstem to become sensitised.
The role of the brainstem is to filter information from the body (including the vestibular system) as it passes into the brain. Normally, information from the vestibular system travels to the brainstem through the vestibulocochlear nerve [1, 5]. However, as this information is now reaching a sensitised brainstem, what would previously be considered normal information is detected as a threat. This results in the symptoms of Vestibular Cervical Migraine such as vertigo, dizziness, unsteadiness or even head pain and migraine.
I’ve already tried it all, is there anything else that can be done?
Most of our patients have tried everything to resolve their Vertigo Cervical Migraines. They have been to balance and dizziness clinics, been treated for BPPV, tried medications or even seen neurologists. They may have had some benefit but it is often ineffective or short-lived. At The Headache and Migraine Clinic, we pride ourselves in using the most up-to-date research to analyse whether the cervical spine and a sensitised brainstem are in fact the root cause of your Vertigo Cervical Migraines. If we can determine that your neck and a sensitised brainstem are in fact the cause of your vertigo cervical headaches, then treatment can start right away. We expect that there will be rapid results, within the first 6 sessions, as there is with 85-90% of our patients. The treatment focuses on resolving the dysfunction in your cervical spine and then de-sensitising your brainstem. The best part is that the treatment is safe, gentle, non-invasive and medication-free
Imagine living a life free from headaches and migraines and saying goodbye to medications!