During my third UCSD Stein Public Lecture that I offered in January 2018, I had a chance to discuss the symptom of dizziness with head turns. This is a common complaint and can indicate a number of different root causes, all of which should be explored to reduce, if not completely eliminate this symptom of dizziness with head turns.
Dizziness with head turns can be caused by root causes involving the central nervous system (CNS), the neck bones, the neck muscles and/ or the inner ear, i.e. the vestibular system.
The management of dizziness with head turns depends on the root cause, so determining the root cause is critical to optimizing outcomes. It is important to remember that multiple root causes are often present and all root causes need to be addressed for the best results.
Some central nervous system disorders that can cause dizziness with head turns include migraines and multiple sclerosis. For this reason, consultation with a Vestibular Specialist is valuable for people who experience dizziness with head turns, to determine if a neurological root cause is contributing to the discomfort.
Migraines are the great mimicker of all causes of dizziness and can cause dizziness at rest, dizziness with motion and recurrent episodes of dizziness. Avoiding the triggers that cause migraines is a key to reducing the discomfort.
Sometimes the misalignment of neck bones, degeneration of intervertebral discs in the neck, or spasms in the neck muscles can cause dizziness with head turns. In these cases, people often feel some amount of neck pain, limited neck range of motion and may have tension in the muscles at the sides of the neck, the front of the neck and/ or the base of the skull.
Consulting with a physical therapist who specializes in manual therapy or a chiropractor who specializes in upper cervical adjustments may benefit someone who has dizziness with head turns and neck pain or muscle tension. In addition to manual therapy or upper cervical chiropractic care, people with muscle tension, neck pain and limited motion often benefit from soft tissue massage to loosen up and bring circulation to the fascia and soft tissues in the neck, head, jaw and shoulders.
Another common cause of dizziness with head turns is a vestibular problem, or inner ear issue. Typically, vestibular problems will cause dizziness with more rapid or quick head turns but they can also cause problems with head turns of any speed in some cases.
The most common inner ear condition is BPPV and a symptom of certain types of BPPV is dizziness with head turns. Another common inner ear condition is a vestibular hypofunction and that can cause dizziness with head turns.
All of the common inner ear conditions can be evaluated and treated by a Vestibular Specialist. The good news is that most causes of dizziness with head turns from the inner ear respond well to vestibular rehabilitation.
Consulting with a Vestibular Specialist for evaluation and treatment of the inner ear and neurological systems is an extremely important step in seeking specialty care for someone with dizziness with head turns, especially since most general practitioners do not know how to assess or treat dizziness symptoms related to the inner ear.
There is a lot more that I can share with you on all the conditions mentioned above, but to keep it simple, here is a summary of the steps I would suggest to someone who has dizziness with head turns:
- Notify your primary care physician of the dizziness with head turns.
- Consult with a Vestibular Specialist to determine any vestibular or neurological causes for your symptoms and follow up on their recommendations.
- Consult with a physical therapist who specializes in manual therapy, or a chiropractor who specializes in upper cervical adjustments, if neck pain is also present or if complete relief was not found with the Vestibular consultation.
- Consider getting a soft tissue massage for your head, neck and shoulders.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.