Are back pain and dizziness related? These two symptoms often coincide and are the two most common complaints among patients. A wide array of problems can cause either, or both, to occur.
“Dizziness” is a term that can describe two rather different sensations. One is light-headedness, the feeling that you’re going to pass out, which can result in nausea, vomiting and fainting. The other is vertigo, or the perception that your surroundings are moving, often causing a loss of balance, nausea and vomiting. It’s important to distinguish which type of dizziness you feel, as each has a unique cause.
Light-headedness generally occurs when the brain is not receiving enough blood, oxygen and nutrients. This most commonly occurs when you stand or sit up quickly; blood pressure drops and the brain momentarily doesn’t receive enough blood. People with low blood pressure (hypotension) may experience these symptoms regularly and more severely than most.
Light-headedness can also be caused by other situations like dehydration, anemia, anxiety or misuse of drugs, such as alcohol or medication. When the body is dehydrated, the brain doesn’t receive enough blood. Anemia entails a lack of iron, which is needed to form hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body’s tissues. The brain responds to anxiety by diverting large amounts of blood flow to muscles from other organs (a vestige of the “fight or flight” instinct). Drug use can cause depletion of vital minerals and nutrients in the body, as well as dehydration.
The causes of vertigo are very different from those of light-headedness. Your body has a number of sensing systems that help you maintain balance and know where your body is in relation to your surroundings. Your vision, sensory nerves, skin pressure sensation and inner ear all allow you to hold yourself up and move without bumping into things or falling over. When there is dysfunction within one or more of these sensing apparatuses, your brain cannot compute where your body is in relation to its surroundings. It may perceive your surroundings as moving.
Inner ear infections are often linked to vertigo. Migraine headaches, which disrupt vision, can lead to vertigo. A head or neck injury can interfere with nerves that supply the inner ear, causing dysfunction. Any problem disrupting the sensory nerves’ normal functioning can also cause vertigo.
The Link Between Back Pain And Dizziness
Back pain may be caused by the same situations that cause dizziness. For instance, when the brain is not receiving enough oxygen or nutrients, the body’s muscles may not be either. Depleted muscles are prone to cramps, aches and spasms. Drug use, anemia and dehydration can cause both back pain and light-headedness. A flu can also lead to back ache and light-headedness.
Vertigo may be linked to back pain through the spinal nerves. If there is irritation or impingement of the spinal nerves exiting the top two vertebrae in the neck, some of which supply the inner ear, then vertigo can occur along with neck and upper back pain. Nerves may be impinged by a herniated disc, misaligned vertebra (subluxation) or muscle inflammation. Whiplash, for example, can interfere with spinal nerves in the neck. The body compensates for pain by distorting posture and using other muscles to perform the role of the injured one. This can cause pain throughout the entire back.
Another potential cause of both vertigo and back pain is fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is believed to be caused by a phenomenon known as central sensitization in which the brain perceives pain where there is none. The dysfunction of the sensory system could potentially cause vertigo as well.
Rarely are dizziness and back pain a sign of a serious health risk, but it is good to know when to see a doctor. Abnormal heart beat, loss of function of a body part, abnormal vaginal discharge and sudden pain in the abdomen are all reasons to go to the hospital immediately when accompanied by dizziness.
Dizziness and back pain are related in some cases and not others. Understanding the overlap of these two conditions will help you identify the cause and seek effective back pain treatment.