Neck Alignment and Balance — Are They Connected?

March 30, 2017by Dr. Jeff Forest

Within the nervous system, there are four primary areas that regulate our balance: the cerebellum (located in the back of the brain), the dorsal columns (located in the back of the spinal cord), the inner ear (the “vestibular” part of our cranial nerve VIII), and visual input from our eyes/optic nerve (cranial nerve II). There are also small, microscopic “proprioceptors” or mechanical receptors located in our joint capsules, muscles, and tendons that relay information to the brain and work hard to keep us upright when we walk, run, and play!

Conditions that can result in balance problems include, but are not limited to, BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo), spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal where our spinal cord is located), dorsal column disease, cerebellar lesions, and/or circulation loss into the back of the brain. Other conditions associated with light headedness include low or high blood pressure, hydration, medications, postural or orthostatic hypotension, diabetes, endocrine disorders, hyperventilation, heart conditions, and vasovagal syncope. However, issues with BPPV/inner ear are the most common reported cause of dizziness.

The upper cervical spine has also been found to affect balance, and it’s a primary area of treatment that we as chiropractors focus on when patients complain about balance dysfunction. Unique to this upper cervical region is the fact that it contains the highest density of proprioceptors in the body and the nucleus of cranial nerve V (the trigeminal nerve) extends down the spinal canal to the C2 level and corrections in this region can have significant benefits for several other conditions, including trigeminal nerve problems as well as BPPV (inner ear dysfunction such as dizziness). Corrections to the upper neck and the BPPV exercises (i.e. Epley maneuver) significantly benefit this cause of dizziness.

At Utah Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we have helped many patients who suffer from vertigo/balance problems. You can depend on our evaluation to determine if upper cervical chiropractic is the appropriate choice for you.

***Emergency actions should be exercised when dizziness is associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, confusion, memory lapses, changes in speech, facial droop, weakness on one side of the body, or a severe headache occurs.