Why can neck pain cause vertigo, dizziness and/or headaches
There have many different hypotheses for this conundrum over the past few decades. Few have stood the test of scientific rigor. Below are a few that have:
1) Proprioception. This occurs more often in acute traumas like whiplash from car accidents. Where the damage in a joint or tissue can lead to abnormal afferent input into the vestibular nucleus. In turn disturbing vestibular input. In normal terms it kinks the balance link between the inner ear, brain and muscles. This is times by 10 due to the fact we have significantly more proprioceptors in the upper cervical joints then any other joint in your body.
2) Sympathetic dysfunction. Your sympathetic part of your autonomic nervous system controls the survival mechanism of our body hence the “fight or flight”. When damage occurs to your cervical spine it may stimulate sympathetic nerve fibres changing blood volume in the vestibular arteries supplying the brain stem. Hence constricting blood vessels in the vertebro-basilar system resulting in dizziness and/or vertigo. We have many of these sympathetic nerve plexuses around our spinal column.
3) An obstruction in the vertebral artery. A stenotic obstruction in this artery can lead to all of the above symptoms. Neck rotation can block this artery leading to VBI (vertebral artery insufficiency).
4) Cervicogenic vertigo associated with chronic migraines. The trigeminal nerve which is one of the cranil nerves has reciprocal connections to the vestibular nuclei. The trigeminal nerve innervates a lot of the upper cervical area in which could be an explanation to the symptoms stated above