An extreme vertigo episode or a migraine attack is a dreadful experience on its own, but did you know that there are many people that have a condition called vestibular migraine? They actually have vertigo with their migraine episode.  Vertigo is a false sensation of movement of either the person’s surroundings or of themselves. If you have had both vertigo and migraine episodes in your history, keep reading to get some clarity from the following questions to see whether the two may be connected.

Do you have vestibular (vertigo) symptoms whether or not you are experiencing migraine symptoms?

People who have vestibular migraines also might suffer from vertigo as well as other vestibular symptoms even if migraine symptoms are present or not.  A list of vestibular symptoms include vertigo, spinning, dizziness, loss of balance, unsteadiness, motion sensitivity, etc., and generally last anywhere from 5 minutes up to 3 days, but they could even remain for weeks or up to months.  The symptoms could be described in a number of ways such as feeling as though your legs are unsteady as you walk, similar to having “sea legs”, as if the ground beneath you is moving.

If you get episodes of vertigo and migraines, even if they do not occur simultaneously, there’s a chance that you could have vestibular migraines.

Does the severity of your vertigo episodes vary?

Other vestibular conditions such as BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) or Meniere’s disease also include severe vertigo episodes that are generally consistent in their severity.  On the other hand, the vertigo episodes that come with vestibular migraines can vary in severity. If your vestibular symptoms fluctuate between mild, moderate, and severe, then vestibular migraine could be the problem.

Do your vertigo attacks include other migraine symptoms?

While experiencing a vertigo episode, the following migraine symptoms may also be present

  • Heightened sensitivity to sound, smells, light and/or touch
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing or roaring sound in the ears
  • Headache – the characteristics of a headache that are usually associated with migraines are a moderate to severe pain usually on one side of the head, or a throbbing or pulsing sensation behind one eye or in the sinuses.
  • Visual disturbances, such as blurred vision, blind spots, or wavy lines referred to as an aura

To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and vertigo download our complimentary e-book by clicking the image below.

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Do migraine triggers worsen your vertigo?

One indication that you are having vestibular migraines is when your vertigo episodes are exacerbated by typical migraine triggers.  Here is a list of some of these triggers arranged by categories:

  • Environmental – strong smells (chemicals, perfumes, soaps, etc.), changing weather conditions such as barometric pressure, extreme hot or cold temperatures, lightning storms, and humidity levels, and light levels such as going from indoors to outside in the bright sun.
  • Hormonal – for women, do vertigo symptoms coincide with a certain time during your menstrual cycle?  Other hormonal changes that can be associated with vestibular migraines include pregnancy and menopause.
  • Dietary – any list of foods that have been associated with migraines, including vestibular migraines, usually contains the following:
    • MSG
    • Aspartame
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
    • Chocolate
    • Red wine
    • Tyramine (found in smoked, aged, pickled and preserved foods like meats and cheeses)
    • Food dyes
  • Behavioral – stressful situations (particularly the “let-down” that follows a stressful event), changes in sleep schedule (going to bed too late, jet-lag, etc.), crying or becoming very upset, or changes in exercise routine (either overdoing it, or not getting enough physical activity)

Vertigo symptoms can occur almost immediately after exposure to a trigger or can delayed for up to 72 hours.  To confirm whether your vertigo and migraines are connected, keeping a journal or log of your day-to-day events (what you’ve eaten, what the weather is like, how your stress level is, etc.) can help provide some evidence of possible links.

The Important Facts About Vertigo & Vestibular Migraines

There is actually very little known about the connection between migraines and vertigo, as you may well have learned after doing some research on the conditions.  While the relationship between and mechanisms by which vertigo, vestibular disorders, and migraines happen are not clearly defined, they are connected by much more than coincidence.  In a study of 200 patients, vertigo sufferers had a 38% higher prevalence of having migraines than those in the control group who did not have vertigo. The vertigo episodes began in up to half of all migraine patients either before, during, or after the headache, making it a pretty prevalent issue.

Our sense of balance is maintained by the combined efforts of multiple controls, including the vestibular system.  In each ear, there are components that detect gravity, linear movement, and rotation. The semicircular canals inside of the inner ear are filled with fluid that is responsive to your body’s position and movement.  If something causes a disruption to the vestibular system, this can cause the information being sent to the brain to be inconsistent, potentially leading to vertigo. The brain also receives signals from your eyes, muscles, and joints, allowing it to know which way your body is positioned and what necessary corrections in position are needed to stay balanced.

Help and Healing with Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on the top two bones in the spine, the way that they are positioned, and how the central nervous system is affected if there is a misalignment there.  Dysfunctions in the way the brain and body are able to communicate can change vestibular function and ultimately cause vertigo symptoms or vestibular migraines. The C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) vertebrae protect the brainstem, but this also means that they are located in very close proximity to the components of the inner ear.  Knowing all of this information makes it very clear as to why a misalignment in this part of the spine can be a contributing factor.

The NUCCA method of upper cervical chiropractic care is a gentle and effective technique.  The adjustments are made using very precise measurements done for each patient in order to tailor an adjustment that will suit the specific patient’s needs.  This is why these adjustments work so very well, able to hold in place for longer and provide relief from the disabling effects of vertigo and migraine episodes.


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