Cervical Dizziness or cervical vertigo is a type of dizziness you may experience with associated neck pain, caused by a possible dysfunction of your cervical spine (neck). Cervicogenic dizziness may present as a feeling of imbalance, disorientation or unsteadiness as well as neck pain, limited neck range of motion or even headaches.
The anatomy and function of the neck is extremely complex and involves many more functions other than the movement and support of our head. The neck is also a crucial structure for:
- Orientation and awareness: Some muscles in our neck are like no other muscles in the body. They contain high amounts of receptors that inform our brain of where our head is in space. If these muscles are dysfunctional (i.e. following whiplash), there may be a lack of or incorrect information we are then processing resulting in symptoms of disorientation or dizziness.
- Eye coordination/ movement: Believe it or not, information provided by our neck is integrated with information from our inner ear (vestibular system) as well as our eyes. These systems all work together to ensure we have adequate visual acuity, as well as the necessary reflexes (vestibular-ocular reflex and cervico-ocular reflex) to maintain our vision whilst our head or the object is moving. Neck dysfunction has been found to alter eye movements i.e. if you are sitting in a car with your head turned and watching cars driving past, this may be enough to elicit symptoms!
- Balance and posture: As mentioned previously, information from our neck muscles usually bypasses some of the structures involved in our balance and posture. Again, if our neck muscles are therefore not functioning properly, this can have a follow through affect and impair our balance
So what can cause our neck to become dysfunctional and subsequently contribute to dizziness? Some cervicogenic dizziness may be a result of a traumatic injury like whiplash, however it could also be caused by poor movement patterns or posture, resulting in neck pain. Other factors like medications may respond adversely to the nervous system resulting in sensitivity or cervicogenic dizziness may be secondary to other issues like an inner ear or shoulder issue.
Considering the complexity of the neck and effects it can have on so many domains, as Neurological Physiotherapists, we thoroughly assess your neck range, strength, endurance, proprioception (awareness of position), thoracic function, inner ear and eye integration/ function as well as balance… and the list goes on!
Dizziness is multi faceted. We understand that, and that is why it is so important for us to hear your story, thoroughly assess you and develop an individualised program with you to reduce your symptoms and restore function so you can return to doing the things you enjoy!