Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that is not well understood. It is known for the following symptoms:
- Vertigo — a type of dizziness causing you to feel as if you or your environment is spinning
- Tinnitus — a ringing, buzzing, or other noise in the ear
- Hearing loss that fluctuates
- A feeling of congestion or fullness in the ear
- Generally only affects one ear
Vertigo symptoms do not happen the same for everybody or the same way with each episode. They can vary in intensity and duration. They can come on suddenly or follow a brief period of muffled hearing or tinnitus. In some cases, the person may only have one attack of dizziness without a repeated episode for a long period of time, while others may have multiple attacks clustered together for several days. Some vertigo episodes are so severe that the person can no longer walk without losing their balance. When a person suddenly falls to the ground while still conscious and without warning, it is called a drop attack. This is another symptom associated with Meniere’s disease, and the person may have even had the sensation as if someone pushed them from behind.
Meniere’s is not exclusive to any specific age group but tends to be more prevalent in people in the age range of 40 to 60 years. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that approximately 615,000 people in the United States are currently diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and a whopping 45,500 new cases are diagnosed yearly.
The Causes of Meniere’s Disease
The most widely agreed upon theory about Meniere’s Disease is that it is caused by a buildup of fluid in the compartments of the inner ear (the labyrinth). The labyrinth houses the organs of balance (the semicircular canals and otolithic organs) and hearing (the cochlea). These work together to help with the sending of signals to the brain regarding the location and movement of the body. In situations where Meniere’s disease happens, the fluid buildup is thought to disrupt the normal process of balance and hearing. The signals become hindered from being sent, which results in vertigo and other Meniere’s symptoms.
Based upon current research, however, not all people who have Meniere’s disease have a buildup of fluid. This revives the question then once again: what causes Meniere’s to happen? A common element has been found, and that is that these people usually have a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine. Later we will share how this can result in Meniere’s disease.
Treatment Options for Meniere’s Disease
There is not a cure for Meniere’s disease, but in order to cope, your medical doctor may suggest some of the following:
- Medication: For people suffering from Meniere’s, vertigo is usually stated as being the most unbearable part of the condition. Here are a few of the medications commonly prescribed to help with vertigo: meclizine, glycopyrrolate, lorazepam, and diazepam. Doctors are only able to treat specific symptoms, and there are no medications that are able to alleviate all symptoms at once. Also, these medicines often come with unwanted side effects.
- Diuretics and a low–salt diet: By limiting salt intake and taking water pills, some people find a degree of relief from their symptoms because this helps lower the volume of fluid in the body, including the ears.
- Behavioral and other dietary changes: It is suggested that chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol can intensify symptoms. Avoiding these may help. Quitting smoking can also help ease the symptoms.
- Injections: To help control vertigo, the antibiotic gentamicin can be injected into the middle ear. Unfortunately, this also greatly increases the risk of hearing loss as gentamicin damages the microscopic hair cells of the inner ear that aid in hearing. Some doctors may opt for using a corticosteroid instead to avoid this complication.
- Cognitive therapy: This is a type of talk therapy to help people focus on how they react to life experiences. This is a good option for some people, as they find that it helps them manage stress and deal with the unexpected nature of the attacks of Meniere’s.
- Alternative medicine: While not proven, some people have found relief through the use of acupuncture, acupressure, tai chi, and herbal supplements (gingko biloba, ginger root). Talk to your doctor about possible interactions with the other medications you are taking.
- Surgery: This is usually a last option after everything else has failed to help. It may involve decompressing the endolymphatic sac or cutting the vestibular nerve, and a possible outcome is hearing loss.
Effective, Natural Treatment for Meniere’s Disease
The neck may seem like a strange part of the body to look into when searching for the origin of Meniere’s disease issues, but there has been evidence showing it could be directly related. Let’s discuss this further. The atlas, which is located in very close proximity to the inner ear structures, is the top bone of the neck. When these bones misalign, it can produce numerous problems. One problem that can arise is the ear not being able to drain properly, which would result in the buildup of fluid and the hindering of signals being sent to the brain about the body’s location and movement. Another issue involves the brainstem, which is housed within and protected by the atlas bone. A misalignment can expose this vital member of the brain-body communication system to pressure, causing it to malfunction and send inaccurate signals to the brain regarding balance.
Here at Providence Chiropractic in Edmonton, Alberta, we use a method that is gentle and precise when adjusting these bones, helping them to realign themselves without using force that would pop or crack the neck or spine. This produces a longer-lasting correction in which the bones are encouraged to return to their place naturally. After only a few adjustments, many Meniere’s patients report a dramatic improvement in their symptoms, specifically of vertigo.