Recent research is documenting the critical role that the Vagus Nerve has in health and well being. If you’re wondering what the Vagus Nerve is or how it could be so important to your health, hold on.
The Vagus Nerve is the primary nerve of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, often referred to as the ‘Rest and Digest’ system. A healthy functioning Vagus Nerve is involved in the following important functions:
- Rest, recovery, and healing
- Quality restorative sleep
- Healthy functioning immune system
- Healthy heart rate and blood pressure
- Healthy digestion
- Lowered inflammation
The Vagus Nerve is also associated with…
- Deep human connection
When the Vagus Nerve is interfered with and it’s activity is lowered some of the many challenges that can develop are:
- Insomnia and poor sleep
- High Blood Pressure
- Poor Digestion from acid reflux to ulcers to inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic Inflammation
- Increased muscle tension and pain
- Asthma, allergies, and autoimmune problems
- More frequent illness
What Causes Vagus Nerve Problems
The easiest answer is stress but it is much more complicated than that. The stress can be emotional, physical stress, or a combination. For many people Vagus Nerve problems have their origins in childhood. If they grew up in a volatile, unstable, or stressful environment it can result in an overactive “fight or flight” response and an inhibition of the Vagus Nerve.
The combination of an overactive Sympathetic “fight or flight” system and an inhibited Vagus Nerve is common in our culture. While the “fight or flight” activation is energizing, over time it takes its toll on the healing and recovery processes of the body.
Where Does Chiropractic Come In?
The Vagus Nerve passes right in front of the first two vertebrae at the top of the neck. Any misalignment of C1 or C2 can put pressure on the Vagus Nerve, interfering with its ability to function properly.
The other end of the spine, the Sacrum and Pelvis also have a powerful effect on the Vagus Nerve.
Misalignments in the upper neck and pelvis can cause interference to the Vagus Nerve. Misalignments in the mid and lower back have the effect of irritating the Sympathetic “fight or flight” System. When this system gets overactivated it causes inhibition of the Vagus Nerve.
This overactivation of the “fight or flight” system combined with lowered activity of the Vagus Nerve is the reason we get sick. This is the foundation for the chronic degenerative diseases of modern life.
Correcting Vagus Nerve Imbalances
Bringing balance to the autonomic nervous system – Sympathetic “fight or flight” System and Parasympathetic / Vagus “rest and digest” System is the most powerful thing you can do to help bring your body and your nervous system back into a state of balance where it can do what it most naturally does, heal and recover.
Chiropractors trained in Polyvagal Theory and corrective chiropractic offer the most powerful combination to restore autonomic nervous system balance. This is done by:
- Upper Cervical Correction: restoring balance to the upper neck to remove pressure and irritation on the Vagus Nerve.
- Pelvis Alignment: the pelvis is your foundation and any imbalance here will cause problems all the way up to the neck. It also has a powerful impact on the Parasympathetic System.
- Thoracic and Lumbar Correction: misalignments in the mid and lower back tend to cause an overactivity of the Sympathetic “fight or flight” System.
- Vagus Nerve Activation Practices: most often it is not enough to remove the pressure and interference to the Vagus Nerve. It needs to be activated like a muscle needs to be exercised. There are a number of ways to activate the Vagus Nerve. The most universal is to make changes in how we breathe and use simple breathing practices to activate the Vagus Nerve.
The combination of an overactive Sympathetic System and an underactive Vagus Nerve is the primary driver of stress related illness. What are stress related illnesses? Stress related illnesses are all of the lifestyle related illnesses like:
- Headaches and Migraines
- Acid Reflux and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
- High Blood Pressure
- Insomnia and Sleep Apnea
- Chronic Fatigue
- And much, much more.
About the author:
Bringing more than 3 decades of practice experience, Dr. Bill Berkowitz focuses on balancing and corrective care, applying his expertise to provide patients with predictable, repeatable and measurable results.
Dr. Bill consistently strives to enhance the well-being of his patients by addressing the root imbalances of their problems and promoting optimal balance, alignment, and function of the spine and nervous system.
Bill’s wealth of knowledge and experience has allowed him to develop a nuanced understanding of the human body and its intricate connections. With each adjustment, he supports the body in returning to a state of balance that goes beyond mere symptom relief, focusing instead on long-term correction for his patients’ well-being.
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