Meniere’s disease is far from a new condition. Records of the disease date all the way back to 1861 when a French physician named Prosper Meniere developed the theory that the hallmark symptoms of vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), pressure in the ear, and fluctuating hearing loss originated from the inner ear rather than the brain. When this theory was accepted as scientific fact, Dr. Meniere’s name became associated with this debilitating vestibular disorder.
Symptoms of Meniere’s disease can vary greatly from one person to the next. It can affect people at any age, but those in their 40’s and 50’s are more likely to experience it. Some will have random and isolated infrequent attacks while others might experience a cluster of attacks over a period of days or weeks.
What is Meniere’s Disease?
Meniere’s disease is considered a chronic and incurable disease of the inner ear. It produces the characteristic symptoms it’s known for because of a buildup of excess fluid called endolymph within the inner ear. Sometimes called idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops, this condition is thought to affect an estimated 600,000+ people across the United States alone.
Despite its longevity and a growing body of research, the precise reason why Meniere’s disease occurs is still not 100% clear. Whether endolymph builds up due to an overproduction or a lack of absorption is not totally understood. There have been many theories that have emerged through the years regarding causes and/or triggers of Meniere’s disease, and there is likely some truth behind many or all of them:
- Circulatory problems
- Viral infection
- Genetics (family history of the disease)
- Autoimmune reaction
- Stress or anxiety
- Alcohol use
- Side effects of some medications
- Trauma to the head or neck
What is the Usual Progression of Meniere’s Disease?
A person diagnosed with Meniere’s disease usually experiences various stages of the condition that unfold over time.
- Early stage: oftentimes, a person’s very first Meniere’s episode will consist of a sudden, unexpected, and debilitating bout of vertigo that can last anywhere from 20 minutes to a whole day. The affected ear might feel full or blocked, which can feel like some sense of hearing has been lost. Tinnitus, or ringing in the affected ear, can also be experienced. These symptoms will all fade away as the episode subsides. Meniere’s disease may then move into a long period of asymptomatic remission.
- Middle stage: longer-term remission, which can last for many months, is common in the middle stage of Meniere’s disease. During this period of time, people might experience fewer vertigo attacks, but tinnitus and fluctuating hearing loss persists or even increases in severity.
- Late stage: vertigo attacks might continue to lessen or even go away entirely as Meniere’s disease progresses. However, later stages of Meniere’s disease often bring progressively worse and more permanent loss of hearing. Tinnitus can also worsen. As these symptoms become worse, it might start to influence balance and gait, causing unsteadiness and loss of balance.
What are my Treatment Options?
Meniere’s disease is considered an incurable condition, meaning that there is no one, standard treatment protocol that will completely eliminate symptoms. Some of the most sustainable care options for Meniere’s sufferers involve changes to daily habits and routines that can make the course of the disease either more predictable or more manageable:
- Low-sodium diet – it is thought that reducing salt intake will help with overall fluid retention in the body. By reducing sodium in your diet, it might help to reduce the pressure in the inner ear from excess fluid.
- Watch caffeine intake – the tinnitus associated with Meniere’s disease might be made worse by caffeine consumption. Try reducing your caffeine intake to see if it helps alleviate some of your Meniere’s symptoms.
- Quit smoking – aside from the obvious benefits of smoking cessation, quitting the habit might lessen the severity of Meniere’s symptoms.
- Manage stress – high stress and anxiety levels can be both a trigger and a symptom of the disease. Gaining some tools for stress management can be key to finding a long-term solution. Identifying areas of stress and then working to eliminate or reduce them can be extremely beneficial. Learning techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, or other stress-reducing activities can help you better cope with your condition.
- Check your neck – many Meniere’s sufferers can recall at least one trauma or injury to their head or neck in the past. Oftentimes, the recalled injury was seemingly mild and may have occurred over a decade before the appearance of Meniere’s symptoms. An upper neck misalignment can be a major contributing factor to the persistence of Meniere’s disease, so having your neck alignment checked by an upper cervical chiropractor is an important part of Meniere’s disease care.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Gives Hope to Meniere’s Disease Sufferers
The health of the upper cervical spine (where the neck forms a junction with the head) is crucial when it comes to the function of the central nervous system and the inner ear. These structures sit very closely together in a small area, making normal spinal positioning a must. The atlas (C1) vertebra provides protection for the brainstem and is simultaneously responsible for bearing the weight of the head and accounting for a majority of its range of motion. Because the atlas moves in such an unrestricted way, it is also particularly vulnerable to misaligning as a result of accident, injury, or wear and tear.
Upper cervical chiropractic takes a detailed and methodical approach to the analysis and correction of the alignment of the atlas. At Woolley Chiropractic Center, every one of our patients receives an atlas correction that has been customized for their individualized needs. The attention to detail is part of the reason why our Meniere’s disease patients see the natural, effective, and long-lasting results they have been seeking. Since upper cervical chiropractic care is geared towards addressing the underlying cause rather than masking symptoms, we are the perfect solution to get you back on track.
To schedule a complimentary consultation call our Winona office at (507)452-4490.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.