An estimated 11-28% of adults suffer from chronic dizziness —a never-ending feeling of spinning, unsteadiness, and disorientation. These symptoms are common in patients with headache, neck pain, and whiplash-associated disorders.
Fortunately, a growing body of research suggests that manual therapies like chiropractic can reduce cervicogenic dizziness.
This specific type of dizziness is believed to originate in the cervical spine or neck. The neck plays an important role in the body’s postural control: your neck is full of muscle spindles that act as sensory receptors working with a variety of reflexes to stabilize the head, eyes, and posture. Injury or disorders in the neck may disrupt the body’s sensory system, resulting in cervical vertigo. Treating disorders in the neck can help restore the body’s sensory capabilities to reduce symptoms of dizziness.
A recent literature review analyzes the available research on the efficacy of spinal adjustments, soft-tissue mobilization, and other manual therapies for treating dizziness.1
In a 2008 study, researchers compared a specific type of spinal mobilization to a placebo.2Although placebo patients did improve, the patients receiving spinal mobilization experienced additional improvements in decreased dizziness frequency. They also had significantly reduced dizziness severity, disability, and neck pain at both the 6 and 12-week follow-ups.
The literature review also showed that other manual therapies, notably spinal adjustments and soft-tissue mobilization, produced similar improvements in several studies.
In addition to minimizing dizziness symptoms, two studies showed that spinal adjustments were found to improve blood flow in the arteries of the neck, which is believed to produce therapeutic effects.3-4 Another two studies found that spinal adjustments led to measurable improvements in balance.5-6
Some case studies suggested that combining manual therapies with vestibular rehabilitation could prove to be more superior than manual therapy alone. Vestibular rehabilitation can include a variety of mental and physical exercises, occupational therapy, restoring balance sense, and eye training. While cases studies point to promising results with combined treatment, there are still no experimental or observational studies on the combined effects of manual therapies and rehabilitation. The authors recommended that future research examine the potential benefits of combined treatment, and determine the dose requirements of manual therapies for dizziness.
This literature reviews confirms that chiropractic and other manual therapies can reduce cervicogenic dizziness for many patients. Chiropractors can also provide natural treatment for related symptoms of cervicogenic headache and migraine.
1. Lystad RP, Bell G, et al. Manual therapy with and without vestibular rehabilitation for cervicogenic dizziness: a systematic review. Chiropractic and Manual Therapies 2011;19(1):21. doi: 10.1186/2045-709X-19-21.
2. Reid SA, Rivett DA, Katekar MG, Callister R. Sustained natural apophyseal glides (SNAGs) are an effective treatment for cervicogenic dizziness. Manual Therapy 2008;13(4):357–366. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2007.03.006.
3. Kang F, Wang Q-C, Ye Y-G. A randomized controlled trial of rotatory reduction manipulation and acupoint massage in the treatment of younger cervical vertigo. Chinese Journal of Orthopedics & Trauma 2008;21(4):270–272.
4. Du H, Wei H, Huang M-Z, Jiang Z, Ye S-L, Song H-Q, Yu J-W, Ning X-T. Randomized controlled trial on manipulation for the treatment of cervical vertigo of high flow velocity type. Chinese Journal of Orthopedics & Trauma 2010;23(3):212–215.
5. Reid SA, Rivett DA, Katekar MG, Callister R. Sustained natural apophyseal glides (SNAGs) are an effective treatment for cervicogenic dizziness. Manual Therapy 2008;13(4):357–366. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2007.03.006.
6. Karlberg M, Magnusson M, Malmström E-M, Melander A, Moritz U. Postural and symptomatic improvement after physiotherapy in patients with dizziness of suspected cervical origin. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1996;77(9):874–882. doi: 10.1016/S0003-9993(96)90273-7.