Balance issues – could it be your neck?

Neck injuries, and disorders can sometimes cause more than pain. They can also cause balance issues and dizziness!

Cervical vertigo or cervicogenic dizziness creates a sensation that you or the world around you is spinning, it affects your sense of balance and concentration. In cervical vertigo these sensations are usually felt after moving the neck and is almost always accompanied by a headache. These episodes of cervical vertigo can go on for hours and the condition itself can last for years.

Understanding balance

It takes an awful lot of coordination to keep your body upright and moving, Balance involves using your eyes, muscles, joints, and nervous system, getting them to work with a group of tiny organs in your inner ear called the vestibular system.

When they are all working in perfect harmony, maintaining your balance is a piece of cake! However, when even one part is damaged or disrupted, keeping upright can be a real challenge.

The exact reason for cervical vertigo remains unknown to this day, many experts believe it is a miscommunication between your vestibular system and a sense called proprioception.

Balance and neck muscles

The suboccipital muscles are a set of small muscles located at the back of the neck responsible for stabilising the upper neck and underneath the base of the skull (occipital bone).

There are four suboccipital muscles:

  1. Rectus Capitus Posterior Major
  2. Rectus Capitus Posterior Minor
  3. Obliquus Capitus Superior
  4. Obliquus Capitus Inferior

As well as acting as stabilisers for the neck and head these muscles have another very important function,

We talked earlier about a sense called proprioception.

Proprioception is the brain’s ability to know where your body is in the space around you, so that you don’t walk into chairs and tables, doors, and doorframes – you get the idea!

The suboccipital muscles have a remarkably high concentration of nerve receptors called proprioceptors.

Signals from these receptors are sent to the brain when triggered by movement of these muscles telling the brain about the position of the head and the neck.

When there is an injury to the upper neck or misalignment of the spine it causes these muscles to be stretched and used in abnormal ways.

Inadvertently these proprioceptors send the wrong signals to the brain about the position of the head and neck.

These wrong signals can confuse the brain as to the position of the head and the body, and this faulty set of signals gives rise to faulty processing in the brain producing feelings of dizziness.

Symptoms of cervical vertigo

The most common symptom of cervical vertigo is dizziness after sudden neck movements, however other symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Neck pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of balance
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty concentrating

How can Chiropractic treatment help?

The first and most difficult step in treating cervicogenic vertigo is diagnosing it!

This is because there are a large number of potential conditions which need to be ruled out first.

The best option is to consult with a spinal specialist such as a Chiropractor. Here at Heale’s Clinics, we will be able to quickly assess and classify what is causing the dizziness. In many cases resolving cervical vertigo is simply dealing with the underlying spinal problem.

Your Chiropractor will correct any upper neck misalignments, which reduces the stress on the suboccipital muscles.

When the upper neck and its associated muscles are in the correct position, the brain gets the correct signals and the feelings of dizziness and unsteadiness reduce.

If you or anyone you know are experiencing dizziness, vertigo, or balance issues, it could be coming from your neck. Call one of our expert team to see if we can help.

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or