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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 16-17

Cervical vertigo: A brief review

1 Department of Orthopaedics, NRS Medical College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Department of Orthopaedics, Joint and Bone Care Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Submission13-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance20-Jul-2021
Date of Web Publication21-Aug-2021

Correspondence Address:
Kiran Kumar Mukhopadyay
Department of Orthopaedics, NRS Medical College, 138, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Rd, Sealdah, Raja Bazar, Kolkata 700014, West Bengal.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijors.ijors_22_21

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Vertigo is a perception of movement either of the environment or of one’s own body, which may be of rotation or swaying. Vertigo or nonvestibular dizziness is one of the most common complaints of the patients, but there are a number of causes for that. Very few literatures are available on vertigo. The purpose of this article was to provide an overview and literature review.

Keywords: Cervical vertigo, dizziness, vertigo

How to cite this article:
Mukhopadyay KK, Raman R. Cervical vertigo: A brief review. Int J Orthop Surg 2021;29:16-7

How to cite this URL:
Mukhopadyay KK, Raman R. Cervical vertigo: A brief review. Int J Orthop Surg [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 25];29:16-7. Available from: https://www.ijos.in/text.asp?2021/29/1/16/324275

  Introduction Top

Vertigo is a perception of movement either of the environment or of one’s own body, which may be of rotation or swaying. Vertigo or nonvestibular dizziness is one of the most common complaints of the patients, but there are a number of causes for that, for example, otolaryngyeal disturbances, cardiovascular system disorders, benign and positional paroxysmal vertigo (BPPV), of which BPPV is the most common cause.[1]

It is not clear from studies that whether the cervical vertigo is a separate entity or not. It has been seen experimentally that neck afferent assists the coordination of eye, head, and body. It also affects spatial orientation and control of posture. Further, it has been shown that unilateral block of upper dorsal cervical roots causes ataxia but not a linear or rotational vertigo.[2] On the basis of these studies, a certain hypothesis has been postulated for cervical vertigo, which needs to be discussed.

  Hypothesis for Cervical Vertigo Top

Ryan and Cope[3] first introduced the term “cervical vertigo” in 1955 and accordingly, cervical vertigo was thought to be due to abnormal afferent input from damaged joint receptors in the upper cervical region to the vestibular nucleus. Later on, the said thought was supported by some researchers based on the fact that the upper cervical zygapophyseal joints are densely innervated and the joint capsules of C1 to C3 contain 50% of all cervical proprioceptors.[4],[5] and also there is an abundance of mechanoreceptors in the γ-muscle spindles of the upper cervical muscles.[6]

Ultimately, four different hypotheses explaining the cervical vertigo have been postulated.[7],[8]

  1. Proprioceptive cervical vertigo

  2. Migraine-associated cervical vertigo

  3. Barre–Lieou syndrome

  4. Rotational vertebral artery vertigo

Proprioceptive cervical vertigo

The mechanoreceptor are a critical component of the proprioceptive system. The network of mechanoreceptors in the neck region controls multiple degrees of freedom of movements of joints and via direct neurophysiological connections it gives the central nervous system information about the orientation of the head.[9],[10] Neck mechanoreceptors control the afferent cervical activity in the upper cervical spine, which can be altered by muscular fatigue, degenerative changes, direct trauma, or direct effect of pain. These are the anatomical bases that may explain how cervical vertigo can be caused by upper cervical dysfunction.[11]

Migraine-associated cervicogenic vertigo

In 2013, Yacovino and Hain[4] postulated that migraine could be a link between cervical pain and cervicogenic vertigo. Selby and Lance[12] found one-third of people with migraine experience vertigo.

Barré–Liéou syndrome

1926, Barré[13] noted that sympathetic nerve fibers are stimulated by pathological changes in cervical spine, which play a role in modifying the blood flow of the vertebral artery. He, later along with Liéou, defined the Barré–Liéou syndrome, including vertigo, tinnitus, headache, blurred vision, dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, and so on. They postulated that the sympathetic plexus surrounding the vertebral arteries could be stimulated by cervical degenerative disease and this stimulation could contribute to reflexive vasoconstriction of vertebrobasilar system, thus accounting for the aforementioned symptoms.[14]

Rotational vertebral artery vertigo (Bowhunter’s syndrome)

If there is sufficient collateral circulation, there would not be any symptoms, but symptoms may occur if there is an insufficient terminal vessel. The vascular supply to the vestibulocochlear organ is by the end artery, which makes this organ more susceptible to vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI).[15]

  Diagnosis Top

It is difficult to diagnose cervical vertigo, and it can be made only after ruling out other potential causes for vertigo.[7],[16] For diagnosing cervical vertigo neck pain, pain must be there and its absence rules out cervical vertigo. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is often misdiagnosed as cervical vertigo, a Dix-Hallpike test for the patients with vertigo is necessary to confirm it.[17]

  Conclusion Top

It is still a matter of debate whether cervical vertigo is a myth or reality. The four different hypotheses have been postulated to explain cervical vertigo viz. proprioceptive cervical vertigo, Barré–Lieou syndrome, rotational vertebral artery vertigo, and migraine-associated cervicogenic vertigo. Management is also challenging for cervical vertigo. For proprioceptive cervical vertigo, manual therapy is recommended.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Authors’ contribution

KKM was involved in study design, analysis of data, review, and final preparation of the manuscript. RR helped in study design and preparation of manuscript.

  References Top

Li Y, Peng B Pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of cervical vertigo Pain Physician 2015;18:E583-95.  Back to cited text no. 1
Brandt T Cervical vertigo:Reality or fiction? Audiol Neurotol 1996;1:187-96.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ryan GM, Cope S Cervical vertigo. Lancet 1955;269:1355-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Wyke B Cervical articular contribution to posture and gait: Their relation to senile disequilibrium. Age Ageing 1979;8:251-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hulse M Disequelibrium caused by a functional disturbance of the upper cervical spine, clinical aspects and differential diagnosis. Manual Med 1983;1:18-23.  Back to cited text no. 5
Sterling M, Jull G, Vicenzino B, Kenardy J, Darnell R Development of motor system dysfunction following whiplash injury. Pain 2003;103:65-73.  Back to cited text no. 6
Heikkila H Cervical vertigo. In: Boyling J, Jull G, Twomey P, editors. Grieve’s Modern Manual Therapy: The Vertebral Column. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2004, pp. 233-42.  Back to cited text no. 7
Yacovino DA, Hain TC Clinical characteristics of cervicogenic-related dizziness and vertigo. Semin Neurol 2013;33:244-55.  Back to cited text no. 8
Kristjansson E, Treleaven J Sensorimotor function and dizziness in neck pain: Implications for assessment and management. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2009;39:364-77.  Back to cited text no. 9
Reid SA, Rivett DA Manual therapy treatment of cervicogenic dizziness: A systematic review. Man Ther 2005;10:4-13.  Back to cited text no. 10
L’Heureux-Lebeau B, Godbout A, Berbiche D, Saliba I Evaluation of paraclinical tests in the diagnosis of cervicogenic dizziness. Otol Neurotol 2014;35:1858-65.  Back to cited text no. 11
Selby G, Lance JW Observations on 500 cases of migraine and allied vascular headache. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1960;23: 23-32.  Back to cited text no. 12
Barre JA Sur un syndrome sympathique cervical posterieur er sa cause frequente, larthrite cervicale. Rev Neurol(Paris) 1926;45:1246-8.  Back to cited text no. 13
Pearce JM Barré-liéou “syndrome”. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2004;75:319.  Back to cited text no. 14
Toole JF, Tucker SH Influence of head position upon cerebral circulation. Studies on blood flow in cadavers. Arch Neurol 1960;2:616-23.  Back to cited text no. 15
Heidenreich KD, Beaudoin K, White JA Cervicogenic dizziness as a cause of vertigo while swimming: An unusual case report. Am J Otolaryngol 2008;29:429-31.  Back to cited text no. 16
Brandt T, Bronstein AM Cervical vertigo. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2001;71:8-12.  Back to cited text no. 17


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