Dizziness and neck pain may occur together in some cases. For some people, the dizziness may be most noticeable and concerning. For others, the neck pain may be more worrisome with dizziness only presenting occasionally, such as when the pain worsens during a flare-up.
This page lists some of the diagnoses that could be responsible for causing neck pain and dizziness to occur together.
Potential Neck-Related Dizziness Causes
Some potential causes of dizziness that stem from a problem in the neck, also called cervicogenic dizziness, including:
- Whiplash. This injury involves the neck rapidly whipping back and forth, such as during a rear-end auto accident or other collision. Neck pain is the most common symptom of whiplash, but dizziness and other symptoms may also occur. It is speculated that in some cases an injury to joints and/or muscles in the neck may alter proprioceptors and contribute to dizziness.
- Cervical spondylosis. Spinal degeneration in the neck, also called cervical spondylosis, can result from cervical osteoarthritis, cervical degenerative disc disease, and other wear and tear on the spine over time. As the intervertebral discs and joints break down, nerve roots and blood vessels may become compressed, which might contribute to dizziness in rare cases. If this condition affects the upper part of the neck, it can cause a headache that refers to the back of the head and/or behind the eyes or to the front/sides of head.
- Vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI). VBI can occur when one or more of the main arteries leading up to the brain becomes compressed or unable to deliver enough blood, which could lead to dizziness.
- Bow hunter’s syndrome. In rare cases, rotation of the head to one side may compress the vertebral artery, causing temporary dizziness in some people. The vertebral artery compression in bow hunter’s syndrome is most likely to occur between C1 and C2, such as from a misalignment between these vertebrae or other abnormalities at this spinal level.1
See C1-C2 Treatment
- Cervical myofascial pain syndrome (CMPS). This rare condition involves painful trigger points in the neck’s muscles and fascia (connective tissues). The cause of CMPS is unknown, but it is estimated that about 35% of people with this condition also have some dizziness associated with it.4 This condition can often be treated with physical therapy, medication, or local injections into the trigger point.
Other causes of cervicogenic dizziness may be possible. Although, there is currently no diagnostic test available to prove that a problem in the neck can directly cause dizziness. Cervicogenic dizziness is a diagnosis of exclusion and the medical community is currently split as to whether it exists.1-3
In This Article:
- Understanding Neck Pain and Dizziness
- What Causes Neck Pain and Dizziness?
Other Causes of Dizziness
In some cases, neck pain and dizziness may occur independently of each other or not originate in the neck.
- Stress and anxiety. Some less common symptoms of anxiety include pain or discomfort in the neck, and dizziness or light-headedness.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This condition is the most common form of vertigo, which is a false sense of spinning. BPPV occurs when calcium carbonate crystals disrupt fluid within the inner ear, sending inaccurate positional signals to the brain. BPPV is typically not serious and goes away relatively quickly.
- Meniere’s disease. This inner ear disorder has no known cause and can include various symptoms that come and go, such as dizziness, distorted hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or a feeling of pressure inside the ear.
Numerous other factors can cause dizziness, such as an illness or low blood pressure. Dizziness is also a common side effect of some medications.
- Devaraja K. Approach to cervicogenic dizziness: a comprehensive review of its aetiopathology and management. Eur Arch Otorhinolarynogol. 2018; 275(1):2421-2433. doi: 10.1007/s00405-018-5088-z.
- Kristiansson E, Treleaven J. Sensorimotor function and dizziness in neck pain: implications of assessment and management. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2009; 39(5): 364–77 doi:10.2519/jospt.2009.2834
- Magnusson M, Malmström, EM. The conundrum of cervicogenic dizziness. Handb Clin Neurol. 2016; 137:365-9. doi:10.1016/b978-0-444-63437-5.00026-1
- Sahin N, Karatas O, Ozkaya M, Cakmak A, Berker E. Demographics features, clinical findings and functional status in a group of subjects with cervical myofascial pain syndrome. Agri. 2008; 20(3):14-9.