This post is all about vagus nerve massage. But, before we discuss it, you should know and understand what a vagus nerve is. As defined by medical professionals, a vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve that extends from the brainstem down to the gastrointestinal tract. The vagus nerve reaches far, affecting many parts of the body. The role of the vagus nerve is digestion, hormone production, managing emotions, heartbeat, and breathing.
Medically, the functioning of the vagus nerve is referred to as vagal tone.
What’s the impact of poor vagus functioning (low vagal tone)?
If the vagal tone is high or at the expected level, everything is fine. You don’t have to worry about your body systems as a well-functioning vagus nerve will handle them all. But, you should be very careful when the functioning of a vagus nerve is poor.
Low vagal tone is associated with IBS and IBD as well as heart disease, depression, and autoimmune conditions. It negatively impacts the gut-brain connection as well as digestion, heart and breathing regulation, and emotional wellbeing. Other than this, the impact falls on mental health, blood pressure, heartbeat, ability to swallow, and immune system.
Vagus Nerve Massage- An effective way to prevent poor vagus functioning and help your body systems to stay fit
What is vagus nerve massage?
It’s a form of vagus nerve stimulation that improves vagal tone or vagus nerve functioning. In this, the therapist doesn’t directly massage the vagus nerve but the areas that are close to the vagus nerve.
How is vagus nerve massage performed?
A therapist applies moderate pressure to the area between the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles in the neck-shoulder area and at the muscles below the base of the skull. The pressure is applied with twisting or stroking motions.
The locations of trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles are important for you to know for a better understanding of vagus nerve massage. You will find trapezius muscles at the top of your shoulders, helping you to move the neck and head as well as the shoulder blades. On the other hand, you will find sternocleidomastoid muscles down the sides of your neck, from the base of your head, helping you to rotate the head and keep the head aligned with the spine.
There is another way how vagus nerve massage is performed by a therapist. Another form of vagus nerve massage is known as carotid sinus massage. In this, the therapist press lightly with the fingers on the side of the neck where the pulse from the carotid artery is felt the strongest. This stimulates a receptor in the carotid artery and raises vagal tone. The objective of carotid sinus massage is to slow a rapid heart rate and improve abnormal heart rhythm.
How effective is vagus nerve massage on your body structure?
Several studies show that a massage of the base of the head, neck, and shoulders improves heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is the time between heartbeats that are indirectly used to measure vagal tone.
A well-functioning vagus nerve allows proper communication between the brain and other organs, including the heart, lungs, and guts. This means the vagus nerve massage is very effective on your body structure.