It is estimated that up to 50% of whiplash associated disorders (WAD) patients will continue to experience persistent symptoms for a year or longer after their motor vehicle collision, sports collision, or slip and fall. One of the most frequent complaints—affecting nearly seven-in-ten chronic WAD patients—is dysregulation of balance or dizziness.
Balance is complex and involves coordination between your brain and sensations in your inner ear, eye movements, and neurological signaling from the nervous system that is ultimately relayed to the brain through the neck. A 2022 study that looked at the case history of 172 WAD patients found that those with higher neck disability scores were more likely to report dizziness, suggesting that persistent dizziness is cervicogenic, or originates in the neck. These individuals are also likely to demonstrate deficits in head and eye movement control as well as impaired postural stability. The hypothesis is that injury to the muscles and other tissues in the neck during a whiplash event leads to abnormal cervical afferent (sensory) input to the sensorimotor control system, or in simpler terms, abnormal nerve function.
The good news is that two common approaches that are often used by doctors of chiropractic have been demonstrated to improve balance and reduce dizziness in WAD patients. In 2015, researchers observed that among a group of 216 WAD patients, those trained to perform neck-specific exercises experienced greater improvements with respect to dizziness and balance than those in a general exercise group. Additionally, a 2015 study found that both passive joint mobilization and sustained natural apophyseal glides applied to the cervical spine two to six times over a six-week time frame led to greater short-term and long-term improvements in dizziness and neck range of motion than a control group that received a placebo treatment.
If you’ve been involved in car accident, sports collision, or slip and fall that caused the sudden acceleration and deceleration of the neck and you’re experiencing issues such as dizziness, contact a doctor of chiropractic to determine if chiropractic care can be an effective treatment to get you back to normal activities pain-free and dizziness-free as soon as possible.