Vertigo, dizziness or balance problems are a major concern for a lot of patients. There are 3 majors areas in our body that give input to our brain concerning our balance. One is the eyes, one is the ears and the third is the spinal column itself. The little joint receptors and muscles along your spine provide something called proprioception to your brain, which lets your brain know where you are in space. Most people think of your spine as just a hard pile of bones that protect the spinal cord and the nerves. Dr. Core described it more accurately when he said, “It’s really a neuro spinal orgasm which sends vital information to our brain every millisecond that we’re alive, that allows the brain to assess where we are and what we’re doing as well as to adapt so we can stay upright in space and survive in our environment. He would look at nerve charts and chuckle because it showed all the nerves going out to the different organs of the body. Whereas his understanding and knowledge brought him to the awareness that the muscular skeletal system is really communicating with 90 % of the nervous system.
All these joints and muscles along your spine as well as the other joints in your body are actually sending vast amounts of input to your brain. It is estimated that three trillion bits of information reach our brain every second but only 50 bits of information actually reach our conscious brain. So there is a tremendous amount of information being sent to our brain every second to keep us upright in space and keep us alive. Dr. Sperry, another researcher, agrees with what Dr. Core found. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his research showing that 90 % of the stimulation to the brain comes from the proprioceptive input from all the joints along your spine and all the little muscles adjacent to them. They give us an indication of where we are in space. When you lay and watch TV for a long period of time you often feel pretty lethargic, but if you get up and move around or go for a run you often feel a lot more alert. This is because your brain gets stimulated again. The brain needs that energy or stimulation as it is constantly sending a tremendous amount of energy and information out to your body so it needs to be revitalized. The movement of these joints and vertebra is key to keeping your brain healthy and to keeping your body functioning properly. When we have trauma to our spine it can misalign the vertebra of your spine causing aberrant input to your brain. These traumas can be from car accidents, athletic injuries, bad falls, work related injuries, repetitive strain injuries, postural issues from over use of computers or kids texting all day with their head forward and birth trauma. Birth trauma places tremendous stress on the upper part of the neck.
This upper cervical part of the spine supplies major input to the control centres for the balance control mechanisms in our body. When these areas in our spine get damaged, the spinal vertebra get out of alignment and are not moving properly. Instead of sending proper proprioceptive input to the brain about where we are in space it actually sends aberrant, wrong or nociceptive information. When aberrant input goes up to different levels of the brain, the brain can’t assess the situation properly which can lead to problems with our balance or other health issues. One of the tests we do as chiropractors is have the patient take the eyes out of it, they close their eyes put their hands in front of them, then walk like being on a balance beam. Most patients, at the beginning, if they are subluxated, can’t even take that first step. If there is miscommunication, if there is a misalignment in your spine so you are not getting information from the joints in your body properly to your brain then you just can’t maintain your balance. Whereas with your eyes open, if the police officer asks you to do it, you can do it a lot easier because the eyes are giving a lot of information about where you are in space. What Chiropractors do is perform gentle adjustments on the spine to reposition the vertebra, get them lined up properly, get them moving properly so now we have the proper proprioceptive input going back to your brain. This allows the brain to make the proper assessment and adaptations for us so we standup and maintain our balance in space.
Another area that controls our balance is our ears. The ears have what are called semicircular canals situated at right angles to each other. The semicircular canals are part of the inner ear. They are lined with tiny hairs called cilia and filled with a fluid known as endolympth. Every time the head moves, the endolymph moves the cilia. This works as a type of motion sensor, as the movements of the cilia are communicated to the brain. As a result, the brain knows how to keep the body balanced in all postures. What can happen in the semicircle canals, people can develop a little crystal which is called an otolith. If this little crystal starts to float around in the semicircular canal, as they move their head and it hits the cilia, there is a barrage of information to the brain as it is a hard object hitting these delicate, sensitive cilia causing severe dizziness and nauseous when people try to roll out of bed or turn their head. We have a 95% success rate in working with this type of vertigo utilizing something called the Epley Maneuver. The Epley Maneuver moves the head in different positions trying to get that little otolith to find its way into a neutral part of the semicircular canal system called the utrical where it can’t cause over stimulation to those cilia. It is important to understand about the systemic effects this nociceptive, or aberrant input going to the brain has on our bodies when these joints and vertebra aren’t moving properly. There is lots of research out there supporting the fact when that nociception goes to the brain to an area called the thalamus, it progresses up to the stress centre of the brain called the amygdala. When the amygdala is stimulated it actually will stimulate the hypothalamus which affects the pituitary gland, which will send out hormones to the adrenal gland which can stimulate or cause that whole stress response to occur within our bodies. This fight or flight reaction, causes increased heart rate and decreasing immune response, etc. Research shows that constant stress response in our body causes chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, auto immune disease, diabetics and arthritis. Understand that this nociceptive input to your brain has a very detrimental effect on your balance and other health issues.