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Neck Pain and Dizziness

16 November 2019

Have you ever noticed a combo of sore neck and spinning head? “Cervicogenic dizziness” is a fancy term for the dizziness that accompanies neck pain. It may come and go as you move your neck in different directions. This dizziness usually lasts for minutes to hours. In addition to neck pain and dizziness, cervicogenic dizziness can also cause:

  • Headache/lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A ringing sensation in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Loss of balance during standing, or walking
  • Blurry vision
  • Problems concentrating

How does Neck Pain lead to Dizziness?

While dizziness doesn’t always accompany neck pain, some conditions, however, link the two problems. Here are a few possible causes that link neck pain to dizziness.

Whiplash Injury

Whiplash injury often underlies cervicogenic dizziness. It is a neck injury due to robust, speeding to-and-fro movement of the neck as sustained during a rear-end auto collision. Neck pain and headache are the typical symptoms of a whiplash injury. The condition also causes many other symptoms, including dizziness.

Research shows that dizziness is due to the compression of the arteries feeding the back side of the brain. Another reason is an injury to specialized dock-station molecules called proprioceptors in the muscles and joints of your neck. These receptors sense the position of the head and neck and convey the information to your brain. They play a role in maintaining a steady balance. If damaged, dizziness or unsteadiness ensues.

Cervical Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), as the name implies, is a condition in which painful trigger points (hypersensitive knots) develop in the muscles and the covering connective tissue (called fascia). When these tender knots affect your neck region, it is called cervical myofascial pain syndrome. As a result, the affected neck spots become achy, tender to touch, and stiff. Pain can spread to the head or shoulders, and about 35% of people may even develop dizziness.

Although a blend of multiple factors can contribute to cervical MPS, poor posture, especially while sitting at your computer desk all day long, is a significant driving factor for MPS. Adopting awkward working postures for a long time along with a sedentary lifestyle contributes to neck pain, and hence, dizziness.

Cervical Spondylosis

It is advanced neck arthritis that causes chronic neck pain and stiffness. People with cervical spondylosis also report cervical vertigo symptoms such as dizziness, tinnitus, headache, and blur vision. It arises as a result of wear and tear of bones and cartilages in the cervical spine. A desk job that requires long working hours on the computer and restricts your physical activity can aggravate the symptoms of cervical spondylosis.

How to Tame the Neck pain and Dizzy Spells?

So you see that it all comes down to neck pain. If the dizziness is due to neck pain, it will likely dial down once your pain is under control. Implement the following tips to alleviate the neck pain and dizziness flare-ups:

Stretches and Exercises for Neck Pain

The stretches and exercises target your neck muscles to restore their strength and flexibility, which, in turn, may reduce the flare-ups of your neck pain and the accompanying dizziness.

Here are a few easy stretches for a stiff, painful neck:

1. Neck Rotation

  • Gently turn your head to the left and while looking at your left shoulder, wait for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the same on the right.
  • Aim for 2 to 4 reps.

2. Neck Flexion

  • Gently bend your head forward by dropping your chin down (neck flexion) as far as you can tolerate it.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

3. Neck Extension

  • Next, slowly extend your neck by tilting your head back and drawing your chin up toward the ceiling.
  • Keep your eyes focused straight ahead.
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds and gently bring your neck back to the original position.
  • Repeat up to 10 times.
  • Repeat the flexion and extension at least 2-4 times.

3. Sideways neck flexion

  • Gradually tilt the head sideways toward your left so that your left ear almost touches your left shoulder.
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds.
  • Slowly bring it back to the original position.
  • Repeat the same on the right side.

4. Levator Scapulae Pocket Stretch. 

Levator scapula is the muscle that runs down the side of your neck to the shoulder blade (scapula). There are two levator scapulae, one on each side of your neck. Both the levator scapulae act in unison to extend your neck. Acting unilaterally, the muscle helps in flexing your neck (toward the side of the active muscle).

Most of the time, especially if you’re working on your computer all day long with a forward-head posture, this muscle tautens and generates neck pain. Stretching and loosening up this muscle helps ease the tension in your neck.

The best thing about a levator scapula stretch is that it can be done at your office desk while you’re sitting down and working. To perform a levator scapula stretch:

  • Sit up erect on your chair with both hands at your sides.
  • Raise the arm of the affected side to reach over the same-side shoulder and grasp that shoulder blade. (If raising the arm is difficult, skip this step and instead, try grabbing the side of your chair to stabilize your scapula).
  • Now lean your head to the opposite side to stretch the opposite-side muscle. Slowly pull your head and chin down about halfway toward your shoulder (like you’re trying to look at your pocket). You should feel a good stretch on the back and side of your neck.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • To further augment the stretch, you can bring up the other hand to the back of your head, gently pulling it down a tad bit more.
  • Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, or as long as it’s comfortable.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Perform at least 2 to 3 stretches.

Other Helpful Tips for Neck Pain and Dizziness

  • Get a focused deep tissue massage.
  • Consider trigger point injections.
  • Get in touch with your physical therapist.
  • Meditate and medicate (as prescribed by your doctor).
  • When feeling dizzy, sit, or lie down. If this doesn’t help, close your eyes. This helps cut off visual signals that promote dizziness.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.
  • Adopt proper posture during work to avoid straining your neck muscles.

Make your Workstation more Ergonomic

As stated above, workplace ergonomics plays a key role in maintaining proper spinal balance. Excessive sitting with a forward head posture is the root cause of spinal damage, including neck pain, and hence, dizziness. 

Your work desk lies at the core of your work life and spinal health. Getting a standing desk or a standing desk converter such as the AlcoveRiser, created by the FlexiSpot, could be the best choice that you’ll ever make for the health of your spine.

The AlcoveRiser standing desk converters with versatile step-less height adjustment allow you to set your desk to a level that perfectly suits your height, thereby almost eliminating the strain on your neck and back. You can easily adjust their height at which you work while sitting and standing. These converters are much better than the traditional sitting desks as they provide you a hassle-free means to sit and stand whenever you want during your work.  

They also provide extra-large space for your computer monitor, paperwork, and desk accessories, making your workplace ergonomically well equipped.

Bonus: To ease pressure on your feet and legs while standing at work, FlexiSpot also carries an anti-fatigue floor mat.