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Vertigo that Won’t Go: The Dizziness-Spine Connection

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The patient: A local woman, well into her 60’s, whom we’ll call “Cindy.”

Why she came to see me: After 35 years flying planes, starting with single engine two-seaters at the local airport to 747’s between Atlanta and Beijing, this intrepid aviatrix had to retire due to persistent vertigo. Cindy’s avocation, teaching competition equestrians, was even more affected by the vertigo. (“Flying 747’s is so much instrument-dictated,” she told me, with few “seat-of-the-pants decisions that one relies on in smaller craft.”) She’d heard about me from another “horse woman,” who told her that, “he can cure most anything!”

How I evaluated her: After reviewing her medical history, which was well kept, essentially negative (i.e. no problems), and quite thorough (as one would have expected from a major airline of its pilots), I conducted a physical of her ears, nose, throat, and neck. I added an additional component to evaluate any neurological components affecting the vertigo that involved changing position, spinning and stopping, and introducing water of varying temperatures into her ears.

The entire exam except for her neck was negative. I found that the orientation of her upper few ribs and vertebrae of her back and upper neck were slightly skewed, or “subluxed.”

How we addressed his problem: I explained to her that these seemingly minor deviations in the alignment of her spine could be significant enough to change blood flow through small arteries that transited the vertebrae and entered her head. For some, this disturbance could promote the vertigo that she was experiencing. I provided several physical therapeutic and manipulative interventions, including trigger-point shiatsu and electroacupuncture.

The patient’s progress: Over the course of three or four sessions, Cindy’s vertigo lessened until she pronounced herself “right as rain.” I helped her with her diet and supplemental regime to address stamina and weight control, as she stated very clearly that she was, “too young to start acting old.” She told me that she might get back in the wind and play with some stunt flying, but being stable in the saddle was really enough for her!

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