Vagus nerve Stimulation – An Introduction

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Vagus Nerve Stimulation
TENS, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation in Physical Therapy. Therapist Positioning Electrodes onto Patient's Ankle Joint

Treating the Nerves, To improve health

Vagus Nerve in the Human Body

The vagus nerve, also known as the tenth cranial nerve or parasympathetic nervous system, originates in the brainstem and travels down to the abdomen. It has two branches: The right branch goes from the medulla oblongata through the jugular foramen into the neck where it innervates the heart; the left unit runs along with the phrenic nerves innervates the lungs.

The vagal afferents are responsible for sensing visceral stimuli such as hunger, thirst, pain, temperature changes, etc. At the same time, the efferent fibers carry information about these sensations back to the central nervous system. The CNS can use these signals to regulate physiological functions like breathing, digestion, blood pressure, body temperature, immune response, sexual function, sleep/wake cycles, muscle tone, hormone secretion, etc.

How do you manually stimulate the vagus nerve?

There are several ways of stimulating the vagus nerve. One way is via a transcutaneous electrical stimulation device that delivers low-level
the electric current across the skin surface.

This method involves inserting an electrode directly into the esophageal wall near
the stomach and chest cavity junction. Dr. John W. Thompson first described this
technique at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, in 1967.

He called this procedure “electrical mucosal stimulation” because he believed the
vagus nerve originated within the gastrointestinal tract. There is no evidence
supporting his theory. However, some physicians still use this approach today.

A third option is to insert electrodes into the carotid sinuses on either side of the
neck. This area contains many small arteries which supply blood to the head and
face.

What happens when you stimulate the vagus nerve?

When we stimulate the vagus nerve, our bodies respond by slowing their heartbeat, relaxing muscles throughout the body, and lowering blood pressure. All three responses help us feel calm and relaxed.

In addition, the vagus nerve plays a role in regulating other bodily processes, including digestion, respiration, salivation, sweating, urination, menstruation, ejaculation, defecation, lactation, and micturition.

How do you stimulate the vagus nerve with massage?

Massaging the vagus nerve helps relax your entire body. You may notice yourself feeling calmer and more focused after receiving a good long session of deep tissue massage.

You can apply gentle touch anywhere along the course of the vagus nerve, but here are five places that tend to work best:

1. Massage over the solar plexus.

2. Over the thyroid gland.

3. On both sides of the sternum.

4. Along the spine, starting at the base of the skull and moving up toward the top of the shoulder blades.

5. Between the ribs just below the collarbones.

To stimulate the vagus nerve effectively, you need to find its exact location. There are four main areas of the vagus nerve located under the clavicle. They are referred to as X, Y, Z, and A zones. Each zone corresponds to one of the following locations:

X Zone – Located beneath the xiphoid process of the breast bone.

Y Zone – Lying underneath the lower edge of the rib cage.

Z Zone – Underneath the arches of the feet.

A Zone – At the root of the tongue.

Once you have identified the correct location, place your thumb and index finger together, so they cover the spot. Then, gently press down firmly until you hear a click.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Senior Woman Doing Elbow Physical Therapy with TENS Electrode Brace Pads, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

What is VNS Therapy?

Vagal Nerve Stimulator Therapy uses mild electrical impulses delivered to the vagus nerve to control seizures. By sending tiny bursts of electricity to the vagus nerve, doctors can reduce seizure activity in patients who have intractable epilepsy.
It works by delivering feeble electrical pulses to the vagus nerve using implanted devices. A pacemaker-like pulse generator sends out a series of high-frequency waves that travel through the vagus nerve until they reach the part of the brain that controls movement. As soon as the signal reaches the brain, it stops any further epileptic activity.

What does VNS surgery involve?

Vagotomy surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures performed worldwide. There are approximately 1 million abdominal vagotomies done each year in the United States alone!

Surgeons typically perform vagotomy using electrocautery devices. They cut away all the vagal trunks except for its distal end, leaving only the nodose ganglion intact. Electrosurgical methods have been shown to cause significant damage to nearby structures during dissection.

Electrodes placed around the vagus nerve stimulate the remaining portion of the vagus nerve without damaging surrounding tissues.

Who is a good candidate for vagus nerve stimulation?

People who experience frequent or uncontrollable seizures are among those candidates. The procedure has also proven effective for treating other conditions such as migraines, depression, anxiety disorders, sleep apnea, chronic pain, heart failure, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and others.

The success rate varies depending on which area of the vagus nerve is being stimulated. For example, promoting the left side of the vagus nerve tends to be less successful than the right side.

What are the Disadvantages of VNS Therapy?

It takes time.

You have to be careful not to overstimulate your vagus nerve

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