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In the tranquil haven of Precision Chiropractic, Dr. Jennifer Sheppard has welcomed countless patients through her doors, each sharing a common tale of bewilderment and frustration. They come seeking answers to a question that has plagued them, often for months or even years: “Why do I feel dizzy?”

The world spins, the room tilts, and a wave of nausea washes over them without warning. Some describe it as feeling like they’ve just stepped off a roller coaster, while others feel as though they’re constantly on a rocking boat, even on solid ground. The confusion is palpable, the fear is real, and the desire for relief is overwhelming.

What many of these patients don’t realize is that their dizziness, often diagnosed as vertigo, could stem from two very different sources – the inner ear or the brain. And even more surprising, their neck might be playing a significant role in their dizzying ordeal.

Understanding the distinction between peripheral and central vertigo, as well as the unexpected link to the upper cervical spine, is crucial to finding lasting relief. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of vertigo, explore its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, and uncover the role of a vertigo chiropractor in Oklahoma City in helping you find hope and healing.


Key Takeaways: Oklahoma City OK Chiropractor Explains Peripheral and Central Vertigo Differences

  • Vertigo is more than dizziness: It’s an illusion of movement, often accompanied by nausea and imbalance.
  • Two main types: Peripheral vertigo affects the inner ear while central vertigo mostly involves the nervous system.
  • Different symptoms: While both types cause spinning, central vertigo often has additional neurological symptoms like double vision or difficulty speaking.
  • Accurate diagnosis is key: It determines the right treatment path.
  • The upper cervical connection: Neck misalignment can trigger or worsen both types of vertigo.
  • Seek help if: Vertigo is new, severe, or accompanied by neurological symptoms.
  • Don’t despair: You can regain your balance and quality of life with proper diagnosis and care. Consider consulting with a Oklahoma City OK chiropractor like Dr. Sheppard.


Lost in the Whirlwind: Understanding Vertigo

In order to navigate the often-confusing world of vertigo, it’s essential to understand the two main types and their distinct characteristics.

Peripheral Vertigo: The Inner Ear’s Distress Signal

The most prevalent form of vertigo, peripheral vertigo, stems from a problem within the intricate labyrinth of the inner ear, the body’s primary balance system. When this delicate system malfunctions, it sends out distress signals in the form of vertigo.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

This occurs when tiny calcium crystals, known as otoconia, become dislodged from their usual position within the inner ear’s utricle and migrate into the semicircular canals. These canals, filled with fluid, are responsible for sensing head movement. 

When the otoconia interferes with the fluid flow, it creates a false sensation of movement, triggering vertigo. BPPV episodes are typically brief, lasting only seconds to minutes, and are often provoked by specific head positions or movements.

Vestibular Neuritis or Labyrinthitis

These conditions involve inflammation of the vestibular nerve or labyrinth (inner ear structures), usually caused by a viral infection. This inflammation disrupts the normal transmission of balance signals from the inner ear to the brain, leading to vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Unlike BPPV, the vertigo associated with vestibular neuritis or labyrinthitis tends to be continuous and can last for days or even weeks.

Meniere’s Disease

This chronic condition is characterized by fluctuations in the fluid pressure within the inner ear. These fluctuations can cause a triad of symptoms: vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and hearing loss. Meniere’s attacks can vary in duration, lasting anywhere from minutes to hours.

Upper Cervical Misalignment

The alignment of the top two vertebrae in your neck, the atlas and axis, is crucial for the proper functioning of the vestibular system. When these vertebrae become misaligned, it can disrupt the communication between the inner ear and the brain, leading to vertigo. This can occur due to injuries, chronic stress, or postural issues.

Symptoms of Peripheral Vertigo

The hallmark of peripheral vertigo is a spinning or whirling sensation, often triggered or worsened by head movements. Other accompanying symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sweating, unsteadiness, and nystagmus (rapid, involuntary eye movements). The intensity of these symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause.

At Risk: Peripheral vertigo can affect anyone, but it’s more common in older adults and those who have experienced head or neck injuries, whiplash, or chronic neck tension.

Central Vertigo: A Message from the Brain

While less common than peripheral vertigo, central vertigo is often more serious and requires prompt medical attention. It originates from within the central nervous system, specifically the brainstem or cerebellum, which are responsible for processing balance information.

Common Causes

Head Injuries

Trauma to the head can damage the brainstem or cerebellum, leading to central vertigo. This can occur due to falls, car accidents, or sports-related injuries.


Some individuals experience vertigo as a symptom of their migraines, often referred to as vestibular migraines. These migraines can cause a variety of vestibular symptoms, including dizziness, vertigo, and imbalance.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brainstem and cerebellum. Vertigo can be an early symptom of MS or occur as the disease progresses.

Strokes or Tumors

Although less common, strokes or tumors affecting the brainstem or cerebellum can cause central vertigo. These conditions require immediate medical evaluation and treatment.

Upper Cervical Misalignment

While primarily associated with peripheral vertigo, misalignment in the upper cervical spine can also contribute to central vertigo by disrupting the transmission of nerve signals between the inner ears and the brain.

Symptoms of Central Vertigo

Central vertigo can manifest as a continuous or episodic spinning sensation, but it often presents with additional neurological symptoms that are absent in peripheral vertigo. These may include double vision, difficulty speaking or swallowing, weakness or numbness in the limbs, and coordination problems.

At Risk: Individuals with a history of neurological conditions, head injuries, migraines, or neck problems are at a higher risk of experiencing central vertigo.

By understanding the nuances of peripheral and central vertigo, you can take the first step towards regaining your balance and restoring your quality of life. In the next section, we will delve deeper into the crucial difference between these two types of vertigo and explore the surprising link to the upper cervical spine.


The Crucial Difference: Your Roadmap to Relief

Understanding the key distinctions between peripheral and central vertigo is essential for guiding appropriate treatment and ensuring optimal recovery. While both types can cause the unsettling sensation of spinning, their underlying causes, associated symptoms, and management strategies differ significantly.

Peripheral vertigo is often managed with medications to alleviate symptoms, specific maneuvers (such as the Epley maneuver for BPPV), and vestibular rehabilitation therapy to improve balance and coordination. Techniques like Chiropractic Therapy in Oklahoma City can also apply, especially if you have a history of neck or head injuries or notice typical signs of atlas subluxation. 

Central vertigo, on the other hand, requires addressing the underlying neurological condition, which may involve medications, surgery, or other specialized interventions (like Upper Cervical Care).

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Book Your Consultation with a Vertigo Chiropractor in Oklahoma City

In addition to the traditional distinctions between peripheral and central vertigo, a growing body of evidence suggests a surprising connection to the upper cervical spine. Misalignment in the top two vertebrae, the atlas and axis can disrupt the delicate balance mechanisms within the inner ear and brain, triggering or exacerbating vertigo symptoms.

The atlas, the first cervical vertebra, supports the head’s weight and allows for a wide range of motion. The axis, the second cervical vertebra, enables the head to rotate from side to side. When these vertebrae become misaligned due to injuries, poor posture, or chronic stress, it can affect the surrounding nerves, muscles, and blood vessels.

This misalignment can have several consequences that contribute to vertigo:

  • Nerve Irritation: Misaligned vertebrae can irritate the vestibular nerve, which carries balance signals from the inner ear to the brain. This irritation can lead to vertigo and other vestibular symptoms.
  • Reduced Blood Flow: The vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brainstem and cerebellum, pass through the upper cervical spine. Misalignment can compress these arteries, reducing blood flow to these crucial balance centers. This compromised blood flow can contribute to central vertigo.
  • Muscle Imbalance: Misalignment can also cause muscle imbalances in the neck and shoulders, leading to postural problems and further compromising the body’s balance system.

Understanding the upper cervical connection to vertigo is essential for comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. Oklahoma City OK Chiropractic Care can significantly correct misalignments and alleviate vertigo symptoms. 

So, if you find little to no relief from your go-to remedies, we suggest booking a consultation with our vertigo chiropractor in Oklahoma City, Dr. Jennifer Sheppard of Precision Chiropractic.


To schedule a consultation with Dr. Sheppard, call our Oklahoma City office at 405-873-8134. You can also click the button below. If you are outside of the local area, you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at