Vestibular Migraine: Not So Common!

I had never even heard of vestibular migraine before my friend told me about her migraine associated vertigo. Johns Hopkins Medicine Neurology and Neurosurgery department says that the dizziness associated with this type of migraine is due to disturbances in “the inner ear and brain mechanisms that influence hearing and balance.”

Most of us never connect that migraines also effect the inner ear, but it sure explains why I get so dizzy and off balance with mine.

They also say, and I love this, that migraines are so common they are not even considered a disease, just a “normal variant of the human condition.”

No wonder we are not taken very seriously. Anyway, I digress! 

The chronic dizziness related to these migraines is a syndrome called MAV (Migraine Associated Vertigo). Research is being done through clinical trials and genetics in an attempt to find the cause for MAV, but at this time, the cause is still unknown.

Here are some of the more common vestibular migraine symptoms:

• Vertigo or dizziness

• Imbalance

• Nausea

• Unsteadiness

• Extreme sensitivity to motion

• Hearing symptoms like muffled hearing, Tinnitus or ringing in the ear

• Feeling a strange 'fullness' in the head

• Anxiety

This type of migraine often occurs without pain, and the symptoms can occur away from the attack. Meaning it is very confusing for us sufferers and the doctors to pinpoint a diagnosis. 

From Personal Experience

Vestibular Migraine Is Not That Common

My friend described the feeling she gets is like a fullness in the head because of the inner ear disturbances.

She said it caused a great deal of anxiety for her before she got diagnosed.

She felt so strange and just had no explanations at the time. But, she considers herself lucky, she found a good neurologist early on.

Some people spend a few years having major tests with specialists before finding out they "just" have vestibular migraine. And it can take some time to figure out just how to best deal with this somewhat rare form of migraine attack.

She said that fluctuating hormone levels also impact it as does stress. And I think a major thing worth noting is that neck and back problems often can be a huge part of the problem. She said getting work done on her neck makes a big difference. “There have been times that I have been totally unaware that my neck was out simply because I was more concerned with the migraine I was living with day to day.”  

So, you see, people can sometimes not be aware that they have neck, back pain, or other pain issues as well when the other symptoms of migraine are too loud.

If you suspect you have this condition then I recommend you seek out a good neurologist with an interest in vestibular migraine or at least migraine headaches. Your crucial first step is to get the right diagnosis.

I recently had a huge change in symptoms and was diagnosed with Vestibular migraine or Vestibular neuronitis - he wasn't sure! It was horrific - I could not move my head at all and vomited if I moved for 12 whole hours. It took almost a week for the nausea to pass. My hearing is still muffled two weeks later. That lasted over 3 months. btw! (by the way).

I never suspected migraine until I saw this list of doctors: 2 physicians that told me to ignore it and go home! My nutritionist specialist who sent me for: an MRI, a hearing test, and then onto a Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.

Most expensive migraine ever!

You might like to read my article on migraine associated vertigo as well for more information. 

Managing Vestibular Migraine

Vestibular Migraine

The fact that these strange and unfamiliar symptoms are not accompanied by a headache, a great deal of the time, can make it harder to understand.

The same treatment used for classical migraines often helps the vestibular migraine.  

Here's What You Can Do:

• See your doctor to help find the best prophylactic medication(s). You will have a number of effective ones to choose from: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, SSRI’s, Gabapentin or Neurontin, Clonazepam, or Topamax just to name a few. 

• Avoid foods such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), certain alcoholic beverages such as red wine, certain cheeses, chocolate, and artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Anything could set off an attack for you if it is your trigger.

• Learn to reduce stress and anxiety in your life where you can. 

• Don’t smoke and avoid wearing perfumes. Yes, perfume is a very common migraine headache trigger.

• Avoid excessive salt around your menstrual period if these attacks tend to occur around the same time.

• Try Vestibular rehabilitation therapy, it is thought to be very beneficial. The links are below under resources. 

• Consult with a qualified neurologist.

• Experiment with having treatments from a qualified Chiropractor or Osteopath and see if neck or back structural problems are triggering your attacks.  

The experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine tell us in a positive note that “for almost all patients, the proper combination of diet, exercise and drug treatment (if necessary) will lead to good relief of symptoms and return of a normal lifestyle.” 

So, please know that there is hope for this type of migraine. It's not just me being positive for you. My friend leads a normal, healthy, happy life with her migraine management strategy securely in place.

Here's A Good Way To Reduce Stress

Some of the symptoms or clues your body sends will be subtle and some will be loud and obvious. Learning mindfulness will help you learn to reduce stress and become more aware of the more subtle messages your body is sending you.

Cynthia Perkins has written this wonderful eBook called Mindfulness Over Migraines that will help you deal with your constant migraine symptoms.

It is packed with ideas to make your migraines manageable. She covers how and when to take action and why it is so important.

Timing is crucial when it comes to aborting a migraine attack, she gets results in 15 minutes. She includes the most recent underlying science and lots of facts that are so helpful in understanding migraines.

If you get vestibular migraines, what one strategy would you add here? Tell us what helps you in the comments box below.

Some Basic Facts 

We both know that there are just some things in life that you can't do anything about. And when it comes to migraines, a lot is out of our control.

Here are some basic facts for you to be aware of:

Fact 1: Migraines can occur at any age and they are more prominent in women.

Fact 2: The pathophysiology (pathology with physiology) of the workings of this type of migraine is still not understood.

Fact 3: It is common for this to run in families and for most individuals to begin having the migraines earlier in life. The vertigo and relentless dizziness occurs later.

Fact 4: Treatment for this type of migraine is basically the same as it is for classical migraine headaches. You can consider taking medication(s) to manage the symptoms and learn to make different lifestyle choices that nourish your health.

Fact 5: It is a complex life altering condition and it is NOT to be taken lightly.

This is a lifelong condition, however my friends specialist did say it might just stop one day. She is still waiting!

You will need to learn to manage this condition. Learning new coping skills will definitely be beneficial but the number one thing is to go see your doctor asap and make sure there is nothing else more serious going on.

Then you can develop a migraine management plan with him/her and get your life back.

What Works For Nausea?

I get nausea and dizziness with each and every one of my migraine attacks. I use anti-nausea bands and some essential oils to help calm me down.

These work for me:


What works for you?



Good Links:

1. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) at Vestibular.org.
2. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy at eMedicine.com.


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With this new information, what one thing can you do now to reduce your attacks?