Dizziness is a potential side effect of chiropractic adjustments, particularly those that involve the neck. Symptoms should resolve within a few hours. You should report prolonged dizziness to your doctor.
More than 35 million adults in the United States visit a chiropractor each year, according to a 2016 Gallup poll.
Chiropractic care, which often involves some form of spinal manipulation, is a type of alternative therapy to treat conditions that affect your bones, joints, muscles, and more. The same Gallup poll found that many U.S. adults consider it a safer alternative to more conventional treatments like medication or surgery.
Still, chiropractic adjustments can cause side effects. Among the most commonly reported side effects is dizziness, especially after spinal manipulation of the neck. While most cases of dizziness from chiropractic care are mild and short-term, in very rare cases, it could be a sign of a stroke.
In this article, we’ll explain why you might feel dizzy after a chiropractic adjustment, what red flags to look out for, and what you can do to manage symptoms.
Dizziness is typically the result of a problem with your vestibular system. The vestibular system is a part of your inner ear that communicates with your brain to control your sense of balance.
Quick neck movements during a spinal manipulation could upset your vestibular system. You may experience dizziness as your vestibular system recalibrates itself.
Though rare, neck manipulations may also damage your vertebral arteries, which can lead to dizziness. Your vertebral arteries run on either side of your spine in your neck and carry blood to your cerebellum, a part of your brain that plays a role in balance.
“Dizziness” is a nonspecific term, and there are several sensations that you could describe as feeling dizzy. Doctors usually classify dizziness as one of four types:
- Vertigo: a spinning sensation
- Disequilibrium: loss of balance
- Lightheadedness: feeling woozy
- Presyncope: feeling like you’re about to faint
Spinal manipulation, particularly of the neck area, may bring on a sense of disequilibrium.
Though rare, some people experience ataxia, which is a problem with muscle coordination. If you experience this, you should report it to a doctor right away.
Side effects of a chiropractic adjustment, including dizziness, usually resolve
Bouts of dizziness may come and go during this time. Symptoms may worsen if you stand up, move around, or move your neck.
When is dizziness after an adjustment an emergency?
Seek emergency care if you have an episode of dizziness that last for several hours. Though rare, spinal manipulation of the neck can cause someone to have a stroke by tearing their vertebral artery. Prolonged, recurring episodes of dizziness can sometimes be a predictor of a stroke.
Dizziness after spinal manipulation usually doesn’t last too long and isn’t very severe. You can typically manage symptoms by resting if you start to feel dizzy.
Drinking water may also help with mild, short-term dizziness. Water can help with circulation, improving blood flow to the brain.
If dizziness is severe enough to interfere with regular activities, you may consider medication. Antihistamines can block signals to the brain that cause dizziness. Examples include:
Can chiropractic help treat dizziness?
A 2016 study analyzed survey responses and noted that older adults who received chiropractic care for dizziness were likely to report that it helped. Participants whose dizziness was due to head or neck trauma found it especially helpful.
Dizziness is a common side effect of chiropractic adjustments. It usually feels like a loss of balance and should resolve within 24 hours. You might also experience vertigo, a spinning sensation.
If dizziness is severe or persists for several hours, you should seek emergency care. Though it’s very rare, spinal manipulation of the neck can cause a stroke, and dizziness and vertigo can be early symptoms.