People often associate chiropractic treatment with back pain and its related issues. However, many health problems can be addressed through chiropractic care, among them issues with dizziness and poor balance. Balance is your ability to center your body’s mass over its base of support when standing or moving. Trauma during sports can disrupt your ability to achieve and maintain balance, and can cause dizziness.
Balance issues are important because they can lead to serious falls and injury, especially on the playing field. In order to achieve and maintain balance, three interactive systems work together: the proprioceptors of your muscles and tendons, the vestibular system of your inner ear, and the cerebellum of your brain.
Your brain perpetually receives feedback from your body about its position in space so that equilibrium can be maintained. The information is detected by proprioceptors, specialized receptors on nerve endings throughout your body, found in joint capsules, tendons, muscles and your inner ear. As you move about, proprioceptors detect changes in muscle tension, body position and force, allowing the brain to make corrections for balance and direction of movement.
● Golgi Tendon Organ: Located in your tendons near the end of your muscle fiber, the GTO is sensitive to changes in muscle tension. For example, when you are in the gym, the GTO gives feedback about how much weight you are lifting by sensing the amount of tension your muscles are producing. When the tension becomes too great, the GTO stops muscles from producing more force, protecting you from injury.
● Muscle Spindles: Muscle spindles are stretch receptors that sense when muscle length changes. They play an important role in sending feedback about muscles as they stretch. For example, when doing a hamstring stretch, they tell your brain when the muscle has reached its greatest length. If you stretch too far, the muscle spindle invokes a stretch reflex, causing the muscle to contract to protect it from tearing.
● Pacinian Corpuscle: This proprioceptor detects changes in pressure and movement within your body. It is found in areas like your fingertips, enabling your brain to interpret things like texture.
Your vestibular system detects motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation and provides feedback to your brain from sensory receptors on the nerve endings within your inner ear. That information combines with visual feedback to allow your body to make adjustments to maintain balance. When you take visual input out of the picture, it becomes more difficult to stay balanced. For example, you may be able to hold a “tree” posture in yoga with your eyes open, but close them for a minute and you may lose your balance.
During sports, your vestibular apparatus works overtime, giving specific feedback about your body position, whether you are accelerating or decelerating, whether you are bounding up or coming down. Without this important feedback, you would not be much of an athlete! Imagine if you became dizzy every time you made a quick and sudden move during play. This often occurs after a concussion, and it can set you up for serious injury. A sports chiropractor can play an important role in such a case, working with you to restore balance and re-establish your spatial awareness.
Dizziness originates in the vestibular space, deep inside the inner ear, where three fluid-filled semi-circular canals and two sac-like structures located at the base called the utricle and saccule interact. In the canals, fluid flows past little hair-like structures connected to nerves that relay spacial information to the brain about body position and motion. Within the utricle and saccule are tiny stones that move the hair-like structures to indicate movement. Sometimes, stones can become dislodged from the sacs and move into the canals, as when you take a hard fall or have an impact collision during sports. There, they create an eddy that alters the flow of fluid across the little hairs, sending conflicting information to the brain, and causing dizziness, or vertigo.
Without processing in your brain, feedback from the proprioceptors and vestibular would be useless. Sensory information is sorted and integrated in your brainstem at the top of your spinal column and sent to the cerebellum, where posture, balance and movement are regulated and coordinated. When signals are confused, as in the case of vertigo, balance my become disrupted as your brain struggles to sort the conflicting information.
The most common form of vertigo is called BPPV, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. BPPV is the most common type of concussion, and is related to trauma to the brainstem. Dizziness usually occurs after a quick turn of the head, or when changing body position from lying or sitting to standing. There are specific exercises for BVVP designed to move the tiny stones out of the ear canal, and back into the sac-like structures to restore balance. Your sports injury chiropractor at NYDNR in NYC can work with you through exercises and spinal adjustments to eliminate vertigo and rehabilitate your balance.