What Is the Vagus Nerve and Why Is It Important?

Published On - 21 July, 2022By Alina Butunoi

Did you know there’s a vagabond living inside your body? Yes, you do in the form of your vagus nerve! The vagus nerve is named for the Latin word for “wandering,” and it does just that: it wanders like a vagabond from the brainstem down to the abdomen, relaying messages between the nervous system and various organs.

It’s a pretty important nerve, too. Not only does it play a role in bodily functions like digestion, heart rate, and sweating, but it’s also involved in the fight-or-flight response.

It is one of the longest nerves in the body. It’s about as thick as human hair, about 3 feet long, and stimulating it improves your mental health! Let’s take a closer look at this mysterious body part and find out what role it plays in our health.

What Is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve. It is a mixed nerve, meaning it has both motor and sensory functions.

It is an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system functions. This controls involuntary body functions like heart rate and digestion.

The vagus nerve starts in your brainstem just behind your ears. This is the part of your brain that controls involuntary body functions. It then wanders throughout your body, connecting your neck, chest, and abdomen. As you can see, the vagus nerve has many fibers that control different parts of your body.

Its Anatomy and Function

The vagus nerve anatomy has two parts: the left vagus nerve and the right vagus nerve. Each side controls different functions.

The left vagus nerve controls heart rate, digestion, and speech. It also helps to control the muscles on your left side. The right vagus nerve controls blood pressure and heart rate. It also helps to control the muscles on your right side.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Brain Function

Studies have shown that the vagus nerve is important for maintaining brain function. The vagus nerve helps to regulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is important for mood and emotion.

The vagus nerve is also involved in the “fight or flight” response. This is the body’s natural response to stress. The vagus nerve helps to regulate the release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

So far, vagus nerve stimulation is a relatively new treatment that involves the deliberate stimulation of the vagus nerve. Studies are still ongoing on this treatment. There are some indications that it could be helpful for conditions like depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain.

It works by surgically implanting a device called a vagus nerve stimulator. This device sends electrical signals to the vagus nerve to help regulate the body’s response to stress.

Many studies show Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is helpful in reducing stress levels. It does this by working directly on the nervous system to help keep the production of serotonin and other stress hormones in check. When stress levels are under control, people tend to feel better and be less reactive.

Treatment for Chronic Pain In Athletes

Auricular vagus nerve stimulation (aVNS) is an exciting new treatment option for athletes suffering from chronic pain. The auricular branch of the vagus nerve, which runs through the ear, is stimulated by a small electrode placed on the skin.

This stimulation is effective in reducing pain and inflammation, as well as promoting healing and tissue repair. aVNS is a safe and non-invasive procedure that has few side effects.

It is an appealing treatment option for athletes who are looking for an alternative to traditional pain medications. Those medications can have harmful side effects athletes want to avoid.

aVNS is still in the early stages of research. So far, it shows promise as a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain in athletes. It was FDA-approved as far back as 20 years ago.

Rewire The Brain

Recently, scientists started exploring the potential of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) as a treatment for various conditions, including depression, anxiety, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

While the exact mechanisms by which VNS alters brain function are still not fully understood, it is thought that the electrical impulses generated by VNS can help to rewire circuitry in the brain.

In animal studies, VNS promotes the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, which is a key structure for learning and memory. VNS also increases levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation.

These findings suggest that VNS may be an effective treatment for conditions like depression and Alzheimer’s disease, which are characterized by changes in brain structure and function.

Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) is a treatment that uses electrical stimulation to stimulate the vagus nerve. tVNS has been shown to be effective in treating various conditions such as depression, migraines, and tinnitus.

tVNS is typically done with a small device that attaches to the ear and sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve. The stimulator is usually worn for 30 minutes per day. The electrical impulses are adjustable and can increase or decrease as needed.

tVNS is a safe and effective treatment option for many conditions. It is non-invasive, does not need medication, and has many known benefits.

Get Healing Finally

If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional treatments or are struggling with chronic pain, vagus nerve stimulation may be a good option for you.

This treatment is still relatively new, but with the wonderful improvements in brain function, immunity, and mental health, it’s worth a go. Don’t hesitate to give vagus nerve stimulation a try – the results could change your life.

If you are intrigued by vagus nerve stimulation, book an appointment today. You’ll feel the difference in pain management and brain training services.

About Author

Alina Butunoi

Alina Butunoi is one of Ottawa's most respected brain training and pain management practitioners. A previous nominee for the Ottawa 40 Under 40 business leaders, she is also a certified Movement Neurology Specialist with Z-Health, a cutting-edge neuro-exercise system that helps improve health, alleviate pain and maximize athletic performance.

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