Also known as “sick headache”, vestibular migraine – named for the part of the inner ear that contains the sensory nerves for balance – incapacitates its victims with vertigo, dizziness and nausea.

Between 30 to 50% of migraine sufferers experience vestibular symptoms in conjunction with their migraines #1. For some patients the vertigo and dizziness are more concerning than the throbbing or pounding headache pain, while for others, particularly elderly patients, vestibular migraines occur entirely as vertigo and dizziness and other sensory and cognitive disturbances and without headache pain #3.

An Under-Recognized Problem

Though pain and discomfort cause two-thirds of vestibular migraine sufferers to seek medical help, only about 20% receive a correct diagnosis #3. Patients with these types of migraines experience dizziness, inability to tolerate motion of the head, eyes or body and sudden attacks of vertigo – a spinning sensation, compounded by loss of balance, hypersensitivity to light and sound, and tinnitus – a ringing or buzzing sound.

And for some vestibular migraine sufferers, vertigo symptoms may persist for some time after the headache pain subsides. With so many of the body’s sensory processing systems gone awry many vestibular migraine sufferers also experience impaired cognitive function, including foggy, confused or disoriented thinking, anxiety and, in some cases panic attacks #2.

Lifestyle and Medical Management

Similar to other types of migraines, treatment for vestibular migraines starts with avoiding known triggers including food triggers such as aged, smoked or cured foods, yeast, alcohol, aspartame and MSG, nuts, chocolate, tea and others. Additionally, managing stress levels, getting adequate sleep and avoiding sudden changes in atmospheric pressure such as airplane flights can go a long way toward minimizing vestibular migraine frequency.

In combination with conventional migraine medications, the medical approach to vestibular migraine treatment emphasizes vestibular rehabilitation programs that help vestibular migraine sufferers train and integrate their brains’ visual, auditory and balance centers toward optimal function.

Herbs and Natural Remedies

For those who prefer an herbal or nutraceutical approach, several options are available to help support the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear:

  • A good place to start is with the neurotropic vitamins: thiamine (B1), pyridoxine (B6) cobalamin (B12), vitamin D and vitamin E. These are known for their role in supporting and protecting the nervous system. In one study, treatment with neurotropic vitamins measurably improved healing time in patients recovering from sensorineural hearing loss #5. The minerals magnesium and zinc are thought to be protective and healing for the nerve cells that transmit balance information #6,#7.


  • In the plant medicine realm, the herb feverfew, often recommended for prevention and treatment of migraine pain, is also recognized by western herbalists for its effects against vertigo and dizziness and may help with the vertigo component of vestibular migraine #8,#9.


  • CoQ10, a supplement often used to boost energy levels and for its cardiovascular benefits has also been found to be helpful for decreasing vertigo symptoms in situations where immune function and inflammation are contributing factors #10.


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