Should you use Cervical Distraction to diagnose Cervicogenic Dizziness?

Cervicogenic Dizziness / Cervical Vertigo

Cervical Distraction Test, or also known as Foraminal Distraction Test or Neck Distraction Test, is a common orthopedic test.  It has historically been utilized and studied to determine nerve root compression indicating a diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy, especially in the prevalent lower cervical spine.  The diagnostic utility is fair to poor (less than a coin flip) in regards to screeningbut has promising value to be a specific test.  Additionally, the test is 1 of 5 variables that, if positive, indicate that a patient would benefit from cervical traction through a preliminary CPR back in 2009.  The latter makes common sense and for most of you reading, it has probably been preached to you in your graduate studies.  Nevertheless, a positive test is not an encouraging screen to help your clinical reasoning to rule out nerve root compression, but can aid later in your examination to rule it in.

Cervicogenic Dizziness (CGD) or also known as Cervical Vertigo, is caused by an aberrant or erroneous somatosensory afferent input from the cervical spine into the central nervous system centers causing vague disorientation and dysfunction in postural control.  The particular origin of altered somatosensory dysfunction could arise from multiple structures but typically stems from the upper cervical spine proprioceptive and muscle spindle sensitivity.

The question remains, should you use Cervical Distraction to diagnose Cervicogenic Dizziness?

Considering it is well understood that the dysfunction is in the upper cervical spine associated with Cervicogenic Dizziness, the reader can question why a diagnostic test, typically associated with the lowercervical spine, is utilized as diagnostic criteria?

The use of Cervical Distraction in the diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis of Cervicogenic Dizziness, to my knowledge, has been declared in two reports from the literature.

The first comes from Rob Landel, who can be considered one of the leaders in the education of CGD, describes a case report at the WCPT in 2015.  Clinical findings suggested there was no central or peripheral vestibular involvement, CNS or cardiovascular impairment, and that vestibular migraine was unlikely.  Based on previous experience with patients presenting similarly, a trial of cervical traction in sitting was attempted and proved successful, suggesting CGD. Accordingly supine manual traction was applied, with symptom resolution that lasted for 15–20 minutes. The patient was instructed in home traction using a towel tied to a doorknob, DNF and JPE exercises.

The second comes from a recent 2017 review entitled, “How to Diagnose Cervicogenic Dizziness” by Reiley et al.  This is a phenomenal article by the way and I highly recommend reading.  It follows along very nicely with my Optimal Sequence Algorithm (previous blog posts herehere, and here).   Quoting Richard Clendaniel’s book in 2014,  the authors state, “a reduction of dizziness symptoms in response to cervical traction implicates involvement of the cervical spine and is more consistent with CGD than with vestibular dysfunction. It is best to perform traction with the patient sitting in order to minimize the effect of gravity on the vestibular system”.

The question remains, should you use Cervical Distraction to diagnose Cervicogenic Dizziness?

Within several other disciplines (chiropractic, osteopathic, surgical), it is hypothesized that the dysfunction in the upper cervical spine stems mostly from pathology in the lower cervical spine.  The dysfunction is mostly described as a facet joint problem or cervical disc problem, especially degenerative in nature.  From a physiotherapist’s viewpoint, this can be conjectured from a postural issue, such as forward head posture, placing the upper cervical spine in extension in relation to a more flattened, mid-cervical spine.  In a nutshell, this can lead to overactivity of the superficial cervical musculature and increased tone in the upper cervical extensors.

So yes, a positive Cervical Distraction Test (abating concordant symptoms) could very well be diagnostic in the diagnosis of Cervicogenic Dizziness.  However, I would be highly suspicious of this test aloneas one test is no test, and used only after excluding other causes.  Outside of the above two citations, the use of this test as in inclusion criteria is absent in every other piece of literature, including the most rubust RCTs for Cervicogenic Dizziness to date.  Therefore, we have to question its validity in this specific population.  As a diagnosis with controversy between professions, you have to have a powerful and step-wise examination approach.

Even in a diagnostic test that is considered specific, we have to be aware of the non-specific effects of a practitioner’s hands on someone in a relieving manner as this could cause a great deal of false-positives. Asking a patient if their symptoms are better after you distract their neck (which is relieving to anyone!) can certainly make a non-mechanical cause of dizziness more comforting.

Therefore, using the Cervical Distraction Test for Cervicogenic Dizziness judiciously, alongside appropriate clinical reasoning and in the correct order in examination can assist in your final diagnosis.


Cervicogenic Dizziness Courses and Cervical Vertigo Courses

You can learn more about the screening and treatment process of Cervicogenic Dizzinesss through Integrative Clinical Concepts, where the author and his wife, a Vestibular Specialist, teach a 2-day course.  Pertinent to this blog post, the first day provides the most up-to-date evidence review from multiple disciplines to diagnose through the “Optimal Sequence Algorithm” to assist in ruling out disorders and ruling in cervical spine, including determining if single or double entity exists.  

If you would like to host a course for your staff (either a vestibular, neuro, sports or ortho clinic), please do not hesitate to contact me at harrisonvaughanpt@gmail.com for prices and discounts.

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Authors

Harrison N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, OCS, Dip. Osteopracic, FAAOMPT    

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

Danielle N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, Vestibular Specialist  

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

Finally. After 17 years, it's here.

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Cervicogenic Dizziness

Through my professional life, I have always heard it takes 17 years for evidence to be implemented into clinical practice.  With technological advancements in social media and search capabilities to gain knowledge from literary papers, I feel this number has to be much less nowadays.

While teaching this past weekend, I brought this up.  One of the participants has been treating for 41 years, yes, 41 years!  She quickly reminisced of how different things were back then to share with the class.  Of course obtaining more knowledge and reading papers isn't a quite Google search and follow someone popular on social media platforms.  During those years you actually had to go and search for what you're looking for professionally.  Makes us feel lazy now doesn't it...

The timing of 17 years is coincidental in the context of Diagnosing Cervicogenic Dizziness.  Anyone who has had any interest in this topic has read Diane Wrisley's work: Cervicogenic Dizziness - a Review of Diagnosis and Treatment in our own JOSPT from the year 2000.  It is well cited throughout other profession's works and continues to be almost a "gold standard" go-to when talking about this topic.  You can find it easily online here.

17 years later, in 2017, Alexander Reiley and colleagues right down the road from me at Duke University came out with an updated paper entitled, "How to diagnose Cervicogenic Dizziness".  Within the journal Archives of Physiotherapy, this is an excellent article and has some updated information on the topic.  As an open access article, you can also access it easily online here.

Some of you may think, Harrison---why are you sharing these articles as this is what you and your wife teach during the entire first day on your course circuit!  The purpose of our course is to get this information OUT THERE---to propel our profession forward as the go-to providers to treat Cervicogenic Dizziness / Cervical Vertigo.  We have the background training, the openness in our diagnostic and treatment approaches, the integration of vestibular and manual therapies specialities to change lives.

Also---as I said this past weekend to class participants---we have known about Mark Laslett's SIJ cluster for 10 yrs to diagnose SIJ dysfunction---but we continue to search how to best to TREAT it.

Well---you can always read in papers how to diagnose something, but we do offer our solutions to TREAT it on our second day.  :)

Coincidence of 17 years with update in this diagnostic process system in our professional journals...maybe so.


Cervicogenic Dizziness Courses and Cervical Vertigo Courses

You can learn more about the screening and treatment process of Cervicogenic Dizzinesss through Integrative Clinical Concepts, where the authors (husband–a manual therapist a wife—a vestibular specialist), teach a very unique course combining both the theory and practice of vestibular and manual principles in their 2-day course.  Pertinent to this blog post, the 2nd day includes the “Physio Blend”, a multi-faceted physiotherapist approach to the management of Cervicogenic Dizziness, which includes treatments of the articular and non-articular system of manual therapy and the most updated sensorimotor exercise regimen.

If you would like to host a course for your staff (either a vestibular, neuro, sports or ortho clinic), please do not hesitate to contact me at harrisonvaughanpt@gmail.com for more information.

Authors

Harrison N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, OCS, Dip. Osteopracic, FAAOMPT    

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

Danielle N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, Vestibular Specialist  

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

 

 

Should you recommend surgery for Cervicogenic Dizziness?

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Cervicogenic Dizziness

It is well established that conservative treatment should be the primary choice of intervention for non-specific neck pain as the benefit of surgery over conservative care is not clearly demonstrated.  For rehabilitation professionals, the use of exercise therapy and/or manual therapy is obviously the most appropriate decision and should always be utilized prior to most invasive, risky procedures.

This is echoed in the Cervicogenic Dizziness / Cervical Vertigo literature as well.  We have three systematic reviews demonstrating the benefit of non-surgical and non-pharmacological interventions, specifically manual therapy, for these patients.  The high level of evidence all originated in 2005, then again in 2011 and even though just showing effectiveness of acupuncture, endorsed recently in 2017.  Although only three SRs, I think this is very positive considering a condition not well studied and continues to carry the burden of controversy.

Even with substantial evidence showing the effectiveness of conservative care, specifically manual therapies, for Cervicogenic Dizziness / Cervical Vertigo, there are still several citations illustrating success following surgery.

Here is a glimpse of the literature with accompanying conclusion:

Yang Y et al 2007

“Percutaneous laser disc decompression can decrease intradiscal pressure, increase local temperature and remove the spasm of the vertebral artery while providing a remarkable therapeutic effect for the treatment of cervical vertigo.”

 Ren L et al 2014

“Excellent outcome in 18 out of 35 patients who underwent percutaneous laser disk        decompression”

Li J et al 2014

“Good results following more extensive cervical surgery”

Park J et al 2014

“Patient vertigo disappeared after surgical decompression of transverse foramen of C1”

Liu XM et al 2017

“ACDF provided a good resolution of cervical vertigo in a retrospective study of 116 patients”

Yin HD et al 2017

“Radiofrequency ablation nucleoplasty improves the blood flow in the narrow-side vertebral artery in 27 patients diagnosed with cervical vertigo and illustrates the therapeutic effect on cervical vertigo. Radiofrequency intradiscal nucleoplasty can be used as a minimally invasive procedure for treating cervical vertigo”

You can see a trend in the just the last few years indicating success of vertigo/dizziness after surgical procedures.  As an evidence-informed practitioner or even a vestibular specialist who isn’t trained in treating the neck, and recognizes lack of consistent relief in your patient, you may seek out this research and consider referring on to a surgeon.  Before you do so, let’s dive into the most recent article with surgical success to jack into a clinical reasoning discussion.


 

Patients/Methods: Of 145 patients with cervical spondylosis and dizziness, 116 underwent anterior cervical decompression and fusion and 29 underwent conservative treatment. All were followed up for one year. The primary outcomes were measures of the intensity and frequency of dizziness. Secondary outcomes were changes in the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score and a visual analogue scale score for neck pain

Results: There were significantly lower scores for the intensity and frequency of dizziness in the surgical group compared with the conservative group at different time points during the one-year follow-up period (p = 0.001). There was a significant improvement in mJOA scores in the surgical group.

Conclusion: This study indicates that anterior cervical surgery can relieve dizziness in patients with cervical spondylosis and that dizziness is an accompanying manifestation of cervical spondylosis.

Out of China, Dr. B Peng and his colleagues recently had this article published in the Bone & Joint Journal (not the best journal but higher impact factor than JOSPT). This is a level 2 multi center prospective cohort study—not bad when considering level of evidence as we have very few studies higher up on the chain and most involve the same name of Susan Reid & her colleagues from the land of Australia.

From initial glimpse of methodology, results and conclusion (you know we all typically look at the abstract…), my thoughts are that if my patient has arthritis and dizziness, then if they have surgery, they will have less intensity and frequency of dizziness compared to conservative route.

The first thing I did was to look at what type of conservative treatment was performed.  Here is the description:

Conservative treatment included physiotherapy, intermittent cervical immobilization with a collar, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and rest.

This doesn’t tell us much what kind of physiotherapy was performed (stabilization exercises, heat/ice, e-stim, massage, squeezes for the shoulder blade squeezes with theraband, neck ROM—hell we don’t know!).  We don’t know what was meant by rest, or what was meant by intermittent immobilization of the spine (does anyone do this nowadays anyway?).  For all purposes, it could be the Physio Blend buffet style…but doubtful.

The second thing I did was look at the type of patients that were recruited.

Between March 2014 and March 2015, 157 patients with cervical spondylotic radiculopathy and/or myelopathy from three spinal centres (General Hospital of Armed Police Force, Beijing; 304th Hospital, Beijing; Changzheng Hospital, Shanghai) were enrolled in the study.

Additionally, the patients had failed conservative treatment (3 months of treatment!) prior to potentially having surgery—-34 of the 157 patients declined surgery—but continued with conservative treatment—and this was the group that surgery was compared to!  I’m sure the patients who continued with PT after 3 months were stoked to continue more of the same cervical immobilization, rest, NSAIDs and general physiotherapy….

The third thing I did—write this blog.


Big key points:

This is not a bash against the article—I thought it was well written and authors were open to the limitations in the conclusions.  They even stated the patients selected for study were for myelopathy/radiculopathy and not dizziness!  But, knowing the time and effort that goes into reading research in the profession—the title and abstract could be misleading to the consumer and I felt this blog would be beneficial to my rehabilitation colleagues.

Just like any condition we treat, this paper exemplifies a double entity.  Yes, the patients had improvement in dizziness following the procedure, but I would really say these patients had success of cervical pain due to cervical spondylotic radiculopathy and/or myelopathy, NOT cervicogenic dizziness.

This paper also exemplifies the notion that dizziness can arise from the neck, and can improve with intervention!  So yes, still can be controversial in the medical eyes, but this group sought out improvement in dizziness following the procedure indicating a cause/effect relationship.

Further, if you’re a vestibular therapist seeing patients you think that symptoms could be arising from the cervical spine, don’t just pass on to your orthopedic mate in the clinic.  Get some training, some real training.  We can help you with that.


Cervicogenic Dizziness Courses and Cervical Vertigo Courses

You can learn more about the screening and treatment process of Cervicogenic Dizzinesss through Integrative Clinical Concepts, where the authors (husband–a manual therapist a wife—a vestibular specialist), teach a very unique course combining both the theory and practice of vestibular and manual principles in their 2-day course.  Pertinent to this blog post, the 2nd day includes the “Physio Blend”, a multi-faceted physiotherapist approach to the management of Cervicogenic Dizziness, which includes treatments of the articular and non-articular system of manual therapy and the most updated sensorimotor exercise regimen.

If you would like to host a course for your staff (either a vestibular, neuro, sports or ortho clinic), please do not hesitate to contact me at harrisonvaughanpt@gmail.com for more information.

Authors

Harrison N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, OCS, Dip. Osteopracic, FAAOMPT    

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

Danielle N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, Vestibular Specialist  

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

Everyone loves a buffet – Cervicogenic Dizziness Style

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Cervicogenic Dizziness

Happy 2018 everyone!  This year, I am completing my first decade of work as a Physical Therapist—wow, can’t believe it.  I believe I am now considered an oldie…the dinosaur…in our field!

I hope all of my colleagues and readers are continuing to enjoy the profession. Like you all, I continue to have the challenges, failures, and tribulations with clinical practice.  Hopefully these get fewer and fewer between but still very normal even with experience—its the beauty of physiotherapy…of healthcare.   I continue to aim high and hopefully the defeat gets buried away, hidden underneath the hours you spend beating on your craft.  Continue to pursue greatness to propel yourself and our field.  Always remember, have fun as we are very fortunate to change lives everyday.

Over the years, the pursuit of additional training and knowledge has led me down many paths.  As you all are aware if reading this blog over the past year, professionally, I have taken the challenge of being part of a continuing education company,; specifically, teaching the Differential diagnosis & the Manual and Therapeutic Exercise Management of Cervicogenic Dizziness.

The beauty of this condition is that it is a very specific diagnosis—one of which is still controversial, yet, responds very well to multiple treatment approaches throughout the literature.  Unlike treatment approaches in other fields of medicine, you would think that a specific diagnosis would lead to a specifictreatment.  But, just as gray as PT can be, this just isn’t true.  Cervicogenic Dizziness can improve with a taste of ALL we have to offer.  Hell, we can just talk to them and give some general exercises and they improve…but can we do more?  Can we achieve better results?!

This is what the Physio Blend is all about.  It is my specific approach incorporating a taste of ALL we can offer that is achievable no matter your skill level and previous training; including signature soft tissue spots, upper cervical spine joint work, vestibular, pain-relieving and sensorimotor exercises—all packaged together smoothly to maximize results.

It is really our whole package of what we do as a profession.  Its the whole buffet.

buffetline.jpg

If you want to treat concussion, treat whiplash, treat BPPV or even the elderly with balance disturbances, AND be evidence-based in 2018, this is where it’s at.  Feel more confident in your differential diagnosis and be more confident in attacking the upper neck as your resolution this year. You may push and prod on the upper neck and make change, but always know, the desserts are at the end of the buffet.  You may be missing other applicable manual therapies, other applicable exercises, and other applicable confidence to give the entire experience that your patients deserve.


Cervicogenic Dizziness Courses and Cervical Vertigo Courses

You can learn more about the screening and treatment process of Cervicogenic Dizzinesss through Integrative Clinical Concepts, where the authors (husband–a manual therapist a wife—a vestibular specialist), teach a very unique course combining both the theory and practice of vestibular and manual principles in their 2-day course. Pertinent to this blog post, the 2nd day includes the “Physio Blend”, a multi-faceted physiotherapist approach to the management of Cervicogenic Dizziness, which includes treatments of the articular and non-articular system of manual therapy and the most updated sensorimotor exercise regimen.

If you would like to host a course for your staff (either a vestibular, neuro, sports or ortho clinic), please do not hesitate to contact me at harrisonvaughanpt@gmail.com for prices and discounts.

Authors

Harrison N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, OCS, Dip. Osteopracic, FAAOMPT    

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts

Danielle N. Vaughan, PT, DPT, Vestibular Specialist  

Instructor: Cervicogenic Dizziness for Integrative Clinical Concepts