For the elderly adult, falls can result in severe injury and a loss of independence. One major cause for serious falls in the older population is dizziness. While there are many causes of dizziness, one that is often overlooked is dysfunction in the cervical spine that affects proprioception, or the ability to know where parts of the body are in relation to one another. In fact, according to one retrospective study that included 1,000 patients with dizziness as their chief complaint who visited one Japanese hospital found that cervical dysfunction was the underlying or a contributing cause in nearly 90% of cases! So if issues that affect the neck may be a potential cause of dizziness, let’s see how treatments to improve function in the neck, upper back, and shoulders affect patients with dizziness.
- In a 2021 study, researchers observed that elderly adults who performed scapular training exercises for 40 minutes a session five times a week for four weeks experienced improvements in static balance, dynamic balance, and physical function that were not observed in participants in a general exercise group.
- Another interesting study found that older adults with both neck pain and dizziness who received manipulative therapy targeting both the cervical spine and thoracic spine once a week for four weeks experienced significant improvements in both disability and dizziness following the conclusion of treatment.
- A similar study found that seniors with neck pain and dizziness who were unable to stand on one leg for at least 5 seconds reported favorable results in neck pain and dizziness, as well as improved balance on a one-legged standing test, following 16 chiropractic treatments spread over eight weeks.
- A six-month study that included 305 middle-aged and older dizziness patients found that a multi-faceted approach that included hands-on treatment achieved greater results than usual medical care.
In each of these studies, researchers found that improving the function of the cervical spine and associated areas of the body reduced dizziness, likely due to improved proprioception and balance—which was confirmed by the study that included the 5-second one legged balance test.
When examining a patient with dizziness as their chief complaint, a doctor of chiropractic will assess the whole patient in order to determine any potential contributing causes to the patient’s condition. This may include addressing dysfunction in the cervical and thoracic spine, as well as the low back, pelvis, legs, and feet which can affect normal joint movement, proprioception, and balance.