If you deal with tinnitus, you may have heard of visiting a chiropractor to reduce your symptoms. But does it really work? There is some evidence that suggests chiropractic care could help reduce tinnitus symptoms.
These disorders can be extremely varied, but usually focus on neck pain, headaches, back pain and pain in the joints. These doctors normally approach patient care by examining the issue, reaching a diagnosis and then providing appropriate treatment. Treatment could include anything from rehabilitative exercises, dietary counselling or lifestyle counselling.
Currently, there are more than 70,000 chiropractors in the United States. So how can this benefit tinnitus sufferers?
How can chiropractic care help tinnitus?
What causes tinnitus can sometimes be a mystery. Some believe that tinnitus is a symptom of an injury to the upper cervical spine. In this instance, this would mean that tinnitus is not a condition, but a symptom of a larger problem. Sometimes, tinnitus can stem from a subluxation in the back or spine. This means means that there is a misalignment in the back that needs to be corrected for the tinnitus symptoms to be reduced, or even be fully eliminated.
Because the neck, jaw and ears are all so closely connected, it’s easy to understand that issues in one of these areas could cause pain or discomfort in the other areas. So an issue in your jaw could cause tinnitus symptoms in your ears.
Certain studies have found that there is a close link between problems with the jaw joint (temporo-mandibular joint or TMJ) and tinnitus. This jaw joint allows for side-to-side and front to back movements that occur when a person eats. These studies have shown that people with TMJ issues are more likely to also suffer from tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears sensation.
There are three theories as to why issues with the TMJ may influence tinnitus.
The muscles responsible for chewing are near to some of the muscles that insert into the middle ear and so may have an effect on hearing
There can be a direct connection between the ligaments that attach to the jaw and one of the hearing bones that sits in the middle ear
The nerve supply from the TMJ has been shown to have connections with the parts of the brain that are involved with both hearing and the interpretation of sound. The general discomfort associated with TMJ problems can also aggravate any pre-existing tinnitus.
Just like the jaw joint, issues with the neck can also increase tinnitus symptoms. Individuals who have injured the head and/or neck region are more likely to experience tinnitus symptoms as these areas are closely connected.
There is some scientific evidence to support how the nerve endings in the neck make connections in the hearing centres of the brain, explaining how neck problems may affect tinnitus. Unfortunately, tinnitus associated with neck injuries may be more severe, and can be combined with other symptoms such as headache, depression, and problems with memory and concentration.
In both cases, TMJ and neck injuries, the outlook is positive. Painkillers, jaw muscle exercises, anti-inflammatory medicines and physiotherapy could be easy solutions to reduce tinnitus symptoms caused from these types of injuries. This would be instead of looking to supplements for the answer, such as Ring Zen or Tinnitus Terminator.
Other issues with the neck may cause tinnitus symptoms as well. The top bone in the neck located at the base of the skull is hugely important as it is directly between the ears and jaw joints. If this area is misaligned slightly, it can cause larger issues for the neck, ears and/or jaw joints. For example, if this top neck bone is misaligned, it can obstruct the eustachian tubes in the ears. These tubes drain away excess fluid from the ears but if they are obstructed, fluid can build up and lead to tinnitus. So while the individual may experience ringing in the ears, the problem may actually be a blockage caused by the neck.
Everything is so closely intertwined!
In additional to neck and jaw issues, it has been shown in clinical studies that upper cervical chiropractic can help relieve hypertension. Upper cervical chiropractic focuses on the upper neck region of the spine. This area, as mentioned above, is very important and endures a lot of stress.
A study found that upper cervical spine manipulation may have positively affected hearing loss and tinnitus. The study concluded that while there may be other treatment options to consider when facing hearing loss and tinnitus, something as simple as spine manipulation should also be considered as a possible intervention.
Can chiropractors make tinnitus worse?
There have been a few cases where visiting a chiropractor or experiencing spine manipulation has resulted in worse tinnitus symptoms, or possibly the original cause of tinnitus in that individual.
Some believe that chiropractic manipulation could be a possible cause for sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) and tinnitus. Individuals who have experienced SSNHL should be asked whether they had a chiropractic manipulation during or prior to the onset of their hearing loss. A study in 1986 reported that a patient experienced SSNHL and tinnitus following a manipulation of the cervical spine.
A 29-year-old female patient who went to an osteopathic physician with a sprained shoulder, also experienced headaches and general tension. The osteopath focused on the woman’s neck by rotating the head rapidly in one direction and then the other. This caused a “popping” sensation. Afterwards, the patient had pain in the right side of her neck, felt unsteady and noticed tinnitus and reduced hearing in her left ear. A few days later, she experienced increased hearing loss, tinnitus in both ears and severe vertigo along with symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Audio testing revealed moderately-severe hearing loss in the left ear and normal hearing for the right ear. Following treatments with aspirin and a vasodilator, her hearing on the left ear improved dramatically. Researchers believe this case of hearing loss and tinnitus was brought on by her visit to the osteopath.
However, this particular study shouldn’t scare those suffering from tinnitus from looking for a solution from a chiropractor. It is just one negative event among many other positives.
There seems to be more evidence that visiting a chiropractor can do more good than harm. Of course, there will always be cases of negative side effects, but it seems this effects a small portion of the population. Most people have found relief this way, instead of making the problem worse.
If tinnitus is a symptom of a larger issue, such as injury to the neck or jaw joint, visiting a chiropractor may be result in reduced tinnitus symptoms, or even eliminate it entirely.
If you’re unsure, your doctor can provide additional options and treatment for your individual case of tinnitus.
Quiet Mind is a blog dedicated to turning a critical eye to tinnitus treatments and supplements. So many don’t work and are overhyped, we’re here to shed some light on some of the scams and successful products that claim to stop the ringing.