Dizziness, Unsteadiness, Visual Disturbances, and Sensorimotor Control in Traumatic Neck Pain

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Jul;47(7):492-502. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.7052. Epub 2017 Jun 16.


Synopsis There is considerable evidence to support the importance of cervical afferent dysfunction in the development of dizziness, unsteadiness, visual disturbances, altered balance, and altered eye and head movement control following neck trauma, especially in those with persistent symptoms. However, there are other possible causes for these symptoms, and secondary adaptive changes should also be considered in differential diagnosis. Understanding the nature of these symptoms and differential diagnosis of their potential origin is important for rehabilitation. In addition to symptoms, the evaluation of potential impairments (altered cervical joint position and movement sense, static and dynamic balance, and ocular mobility and coordination) should become an essential part of the routine assessment of those with traumatic neck pain, including those with concomitant injuries such as concussion and vestibular or visual pathology or deficits. Once adequately assessed, appropriate tailored management should be implemented. Research to further assist differential diagnosis and to understand the most important contributing factors associated with abnormal cervical afferent input and subsequent disturbances to the sensorimotor control system, as well as the most efficacious management of such symptoms and impairments, is important for the future. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2017;47(7):492-502. Epub 16 Jun 2017. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7052.

Keywords: WAD; cervical spine; proprioception; whiplash.

MeSH terms

  • Dizziness / physiopathology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / physiopathology*
  • Head Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neck Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Somatosensory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Whiplash Injuries / physiopathology