What is Cervical Vertigo?

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  • Written By: Deneatra Harmon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2018
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Cervical vertigo is a condition that is associated with head or neck movement. Some symptoms include a feeling of spinning in the head or around a room. Causes of cervical vertigo usually stem from inner ear, head, or neck trauma. Doctors usually diagnose this type of vertigo after a series of imaging tests. Treatment often includes medications, physical therapy of the head and neck, or surgery.

The dizziness problem occurs depending on neck posture or head movement. Simply turning the head left or right while sitting up straight or lying down may trigger cervical vertigo in some people. Other head and eye movements may also trigger the condition. A sense of imbalance while standing or walking often indicates vertigo. Benign paroxysmal position vertigo (BPPV) refers to the vertigo or dizziness associated with inner ear problems such as fluid buildup.

Other symptoms range from mild to severe. Some patients may suffer only rare bouts of dizziness, while others may experience recurring episodes. In either case, episodes usually last no longer than one minute according to medical sources. Besides a loss of balance, dizziness, and lightheadedness indicate vertigo. Additional factors that indicate BPPV include feelings of spinning around a room, blurry vision, and even nausea and vomiting.


Whiplash, and other head and neck injuries, may cause the patient to experience vertigo from time to time. Medical references also indicate that pain and stiffness from injuries, arthritis, surgery in the neck, and chiropractic adjustment treatments can contribute to BPPV or cervical vertigo because of vertebral abnormalities such as vascular compression syndrome. Rare causes of this type of vertigo include inner ear damage or conditions that affect the inner ear such as Meniere’s disease.

The treating physician may conduct a physical examination to evaluate any involuntary eye movements, dizziness associated with eye movements, and specific body positions that may cause dizziness. For example, the doctor may have the patient lie on his back, turn his head to one side, and position the head slightly over the edge of the exam bed. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans the head and body to detect any tumors or lesions that may be causing dizziness. An ENG, or electronystagmography, involves the use of electrodes to examine abnormal eye movements. A videonystagmography checks for inner ear problems or involuntary eye movements that may be causing cervical vertigo.

To limit episodes of dizziness, doctors suggest physical therapy and medication or surgery if the other options do not work. Light physical therapy emphasizes achieving proper mobilization and posture. Some medical sources recommend muscle relaxants or cervical blocks to reduce pain and spasms associated with cervical vertigo. Another approach to preventing dizziness includes canal-plugging surgery in which surgeons insert a bone plug into part of the inner ear to stop dizziness caused by BPPV.


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