What is vertigo, is it the same as dizziness?

Mar 1, 2021

Dizziness is a sensation often described as feeling lightheaded, unsteady or as if you’re about to faint.

Vertigo on the other hand feels as if the room is spinning around you or likewise you are spinning around the room. A good way to conceptualise the feeling of vertigo is if you imagine spinning around and around in an office chair for 30 seconds and then stop. It feels as though you are still spinning for a little while. This is akin to the feeling of vertigo.

What causes vertigo?

Vertigo can be caused by many issues and conditions within the body, in rare cases vertigo can be associated with serious medical conditions. Therefore, your Chiropractor will perform a thorough history and physical examination in order to best determine the underlying cause of the vertigo.

Common Causes of Vertigo

Below are some common causes of vertigo:


The inner ear has semicircular canals that are filled with fluid and lined with fine sensory hairs. These hairs sense movement of the fluid within the ear and help you keep your balance, BPPV or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is the most common cause of vertigo. It is caused by debris floating in the semicircular canals. When debris float down the canal and brush on the fine sensory hairs this creates the feeling of vertigo or as if the room is spinning.

Vertigo produced by BPPV often occurs with certain head movements and lasts for a few seconds to a couple of minutes. A history of head trauma and older age are risk factors for developing BPPV.

Chiropractic treatment for BPPV includes repositioning manoeuvres where your chiropractor will move your head through various positions to remove the debris from the semicircular canals. Additionally, the chiropractor may prescribe exercises involving head, neck and eye movement to strengthen your balance.

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear. A build up of fluid changes the pressure within the inner ear which may result in the feeling of vertigo.

Vertigo caused by Meniere’s disease is often sudden, recurrent and severe. Vertigo attacks may last for several hours to a day and there may be weeks to months between episodes of vertigo. Additionally, there may be associated hearing loss, ringing in the ears and/or a feeling of fullness in the ear.

Your chiropractor may prescribe exercises to help strengthen your balance and vestibular system. Additionally, the chiropractor may advise you on diet and lifestyle changes aimed towards reducing the build up of fluid in the ear, such as reducing salt in the diet. The chiropractor may comanage with your GP, particularly if symptoms are severe and frequent. Your GP may prescribe anti-nausea medication to reduce the vertigo symptoms and/or diuretics to help reduce fluid build up in the ear.

Vestibular neuronitis and labyrinthitis

These conditions are caused by an inner ear infection. Vestibular neuronitis is caused by a viral infection of the nerve that sends signals from your inner ear to your brain. Vertigo is often severe and occurs suddenly. There may also be associated nausea and vomiting. Vestibular neuronitis may be preceded by a recent infection or common cold.

Labyrinthitis can be due to either a viral or bacterial infection. A bacterial infection may cause hearing loss, whereas a viral infection does not. A sudden onset of vertigo often occurs that may improve over a week. However, sudden head movement may cause vertigo symptoms for weeks.

Management of these conditions include referral to your GP for appropriate medications to combat the infection. Your chiropractor may prescribe exercises to help strengthen your balance and vestibular system once in the recovery period.

Cervicogenic Vertigo

Cervicogenic vertigo is caused by joint dysfunction of the neck and/or muscle spasm of the neck musculature. Patient’s may have a history of neck trauma, muscle spasms, reduced neck range of motion and neck stiffness.

Chiropractic management of cervicogenic vertigo is aimed to reduce muscle spasm and free restricted movement of the neck, thus aiding improvement of vertigo symptoms. These 2 goals may be approached utilising a range of techniques including chiropractic manual adjusting, instrument assisted techniques, neck joint mobilisation, soft tissue massage, stretching, traction and home rehabilitation exercises.

Chiropractic Vertigo Treatment

The above common causes of vertigo often have an overlap with cervicogenic vertigo. Additionally, neck joint dysfunction, neck stiffness and neck muscle tension may occur secondarily to the vertigo symptoms as the body becomes less aware of its orientation in space. For this reason, Chiropractic care may help to restore neck function, reduce pain, resolve and/or aid recovery from vertigo symptoms caused by the above conditions.

Once again, vertigo and dizziness can be caused by many issues other than the above such as anaemia, diabetes, side effects of medication, low blood pressure and many more.

Therefore, if you are experiencing vertigo or dizziness like symptoms please seek help from a healthcare professional.