The vagus nerve is one of the most important nerves in the body. The vagus nerve helps control and regulate important automatic functions such as heart rate, breathing, respiration, digestion, hormone control, and much more. The vagus nerve starts in an area of the brainstem, called the medulla oblongata, and branches down through the spine to vital organs such as the heart, lungs, oesophagus, digestive tract, reproductive organs, and a host of others. Normal body function relies on the health of the vagus nerve and its ability to send, receive, and perceive nerve messages.
The vagus nerve proves especially important to Chiropractors because of the link between nerves and the spine, especially the upper neck. Spinal health plays a significant role in directing the health of the vagus nerve. If the spine becomes altered in its positioning, as in the very common abnormal spinal curve associated with forward head carriage, or loss of optimal spinal movement patterns, the information to and from the vagus can become interrupted. Chiropractors play close attention to the alignment and movement of the spine to assure better vagus nerve activity.
One of the primary tests used to check the function and efficiency of the vagus nerve comes from heart rate variability (HRV). HRV measures autonomic vagal nerve activity. A higher HRV indicates better output and a healthier person.
Research published in 2018, in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, linked many chronic diseases to altered vagus nerve function, assessed and detected through HRV readings. Heart attack patients with low HRV have about four times the risk of mortality. Further, high HRV is associated with shorter stress responses, reduced risk of overall morality, reduced risk of cancer death and longer survival for cancer patients, reduction of pre-diabetes and diabetes risks via reduced insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and many more positive health measures. In general, higher HRV readings are linked to lowered chronic disease risk.
Vagus nerve activity also connects to a specific part of the brain known as the frontal brain, directly impacting the regulation of lifestyle behaviours. Higher vagal nerve activity predicts a reduced risk of major chronic disease and lowered inflammation. Research dictates that physicians and health policy makers begin using HRV routinely for the prediction and possible prevention of major diseases. Chiropractic plays an important role in reducing chronic disease through adjustments which directly influence vagal nerve function.
Further research published in 2018, in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, found that spinal manipulation, in the cervical and lumbar regions activates the parasympathetic nervous system, a division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), of which the longest nerve of the ANS is the vagus nerve. Optimal vagus nerve activity plays a very important role in regulating autonomic nervous system function, lowering chronic disease risk, and decreasing mortality rates. Better health and function within the nervous system represents only a portion of the benefits experienced through regular Chiropractic care. All people deserve the proven health care option delivered conveniently by a local Chiropractor.
*J Clin Med. 2018 Oct 19;7(10). pii: E371. The Vagus Nerve Can Predict and Possibly Modulate Non-Communicable Chronic Diseases: Introducing a Neuroimmunological Paradigm to Public Health.
*J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2018 Jan;22(1):203-208. Effects of spinal manipulation and myofascial techniques on heart rate variability: A systematic review.
*Biol Psychol. 2007 Feb;74(2):116-43. The polyvagal perspective.
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