vertigo-vs-dizziness-discovering-difference-getting-helpIf you have a bout of vertigo, you may describe it to your friends or doctor as feeling extremely dizzy. While vertigo and dizziness are similar, they are not the same. Understanding what each one is can be vital when it comes to getting the proper care. Let’s see what each term means and then look at an all-natural way to get relief that has proven to be effective.


Also called lightheadedness, this is the feeling that you are about to pass out or faint. You do not feel as if you or the things around you are moving. Dizziness can often subside when you lie down. It if it is severe, it can lead to a fainting spell, called syncope. Sometimes, you may feel nauseated or vomit.

Dizziness happens to people of all ages but is seen more often in those who are older. Some elderly people have such a fear of dizziness they may avoid social activities. Dizziness can lead to falls and injuries.

Almost everyone has felt lightheaded at one time or another. Brief episodes of lightheadedness are not a cause for alarm. They may occur due to a momentary drop in blood pressure or blood flow to your head when you stand up quickly. If your dizziness is ongoing, you may have a more serious problem and should be evaluated by your primary care physician.

Lightheadedness can be caused by any of the following:

  • Illnesses such as the common cold or the flu
  • Hyperventilating — very deep or rapid breathing
  • The use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or tobacco
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Illness that causes dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and fevers

Other rare reasons for lightheadedness can be:

  • Bleeding — internal, in the digestive tract, or menstrual bleeding (usually accompanied by fatigue)
  • Abnormal heart rhythm leading to fainting spells
  • Prescription medications


This is the feeling that you or the things around you are moving when there is no movement at all. You may feel as if you are off balance, whirling, tilting, falling, or most commonly, spinning. With severe vertigo, you may feel sick and vomit. You may have trouble walking or even standing and some lose their balance and fall.

Vertigo happens when the signals being sent to your brain are conflicted. Your brain gets input from the four sensory systems to maintain your sense of balance and orientation in your environment. These sensory systems are:

  • Visual input: Provides information about your position and movement in relation to the environment you are in. This is a vital part of how the balance system functions.
  • Skin pressure: This sends information to the brain about what part of your body is feeling pressure, indicating what position you are in. For example, your feet feel the most pressure when you are standing up.
  • The inner ear: This is called the labyrinth and includes the semicircular canals that have special cells to detect motion and changes in your position. If the inner ear becomes injured or affected by illness, false signals can be sent to the brain. If these signals conflict with the signals from other system input, vertigo can occur.
  • Sensory nerves: These nerves are located in your joints and the allow your brain to know what position your legs, arms, and torso are in. Your body then begins to make very small changes in your posture so as to help keep your balance.

Vertigo can be caused by:

  • Injury to the ear, head, or neck
  • Migraines — severe head pain
  • Inner ear disorders — BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, vestibular neuritis
  • Decrease of the flow of blood through the arteries that supply blood to the brain

Rare causes of vertigo:

  • Cholesteatoma — a noncancerous growth behind the eardrum
  • Brain tumors and cancer that have traveled from other parts of the body

Note: If you notice a change in speech or vision or similar loss of function in the body, you should seek immediate medical attention. This can be due to a stroke or a transient ischemic attack.

Environmental factors that can cause vertigo (and lightheadedness) are:

  • Alcohol interacting with prescription medications
  • Overmedicating
  • Drug withdrawal or intoxication
  • Abusing alcohol

How to Find Relief for Both Vertigo and Dizziness

Even though these two conditions are not the same, they may have the same root cause. It has been noted a misalignment in the upper bones of the neck can be the underlying reason for vertigo and dizziness. The C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) are specially designed to protect the delicate brainstem and spinal cord. The brainstem is the communication superhighway of the body. It is responsible for sending and receiving information to and from the brain. The problem comes in when the atlas or axis misalign due to a trip and fall, whiplash, sporting accidents, or any other trauma that affects the head and neck. It doesn’t take a major accident for these bones to misalign, and it could have happened as long ago as 15 years or more. A misalignment here puts the brainstem under pressure and causes it to send mixed signals from the sensory inputs to the brain about the body’s location. Rest assured, however, there is a simple solution to correcting this misalignment.

A study was conducted by Dr. Erin Elster, an upper cervical chiropractor, observing 60 patients all reporting symptoms of vertigo. They all received specific adjustments to their atlas as each one had a misalignment here. Out of the 60, 48 reported that their vertigo went away completely. The remaining patients noted that their vertigo has improved greatly.

We use a similar practice in our office. It is a gentle method that allows us to help these bones move back into place without the need to pop or crack the spine or neck. This leads many to see their vertigo improve or go away altogether.