The vagus nerve connection to better health

The vagus nerve connection to better health

by Charles S. Masarsky, D.C.
Stripes Okinawa

Vagabond Fibers
A myriad of brain cells extends fibers that weave themselves into a nerve. This nerve emerges from the underside of the skull and begins to wander. In fact, the name of this nerve – vagus – means wanderer. It is a name that shares the same ancient origins with such words as “vagrant” and “vagabond.”

Vast Connections
The vagus nerve connects with the heart, lungs, stomach liver, small intestines, and the first 2/3 of the large intestines. Vagus stimulation calms the heart and regulates blood pressure. It activates digestion. Very importantly, vagus stimulation takes the edge off excessive inflammation – the source of many health problems.

Where the Vagus Can Be Helped or Hindered
As the vagus nerve passes through the throat, it is vulnerable to forces that can disturb it and accessible to forces that can help it. A whiplash injury from a car crash or a slip-and-fall accident can disturb vagus function. Chiropractic adjustments designed to normalize the movement of the cervical vertebrae and balance the tone of the neck muscles can relieve vagus disturbance. This improvement in vagus function may be the mechanism explaining some of the clinical results of the chiropractic cervical adjustment, a few of which are:

  • A study at the University of Chicago College of Medicine found significant improvement in blood pressure among hypertension patients receiving chiropractic cervical adjustments (1). 
  •  A report on a series of new chiropractic patients demonstrated robust improvement in lung function following a course of cervical adjustments (2).
  •  A study of infants with colic in Denmark involved multiple clinics (3). It demonstrated substantial relief from colicky symptoms.
  • A case series demonstrated chiropractic cervical adjustments were helpful for patients with anxiety or depression (4). It is worth noting that anxiety and depression are frequent components of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Helping Yourself
Natural vibration from gargling, singing, or chanting can gently stimulate the vagus nerve. Also, yogic breathing exercises gently massage the vagus as it passes through the large muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen – the diaphragm. You will find instructions for one of these yogic breathing exercises – alternate nostril breathing – on our YouTube channel.

About the Author
While serving as a medical specialist (MOS 91-B) in the U.S. Army Reserve, Dr. Masarsky earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic College in 1981. He is in the private practice of chiropractic in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC with his wife and partner, Dr. Marion Todres-Masarsky. For research citations related to this article, contact Dr. Masarsky at Also, visit his practice’s website and YouTube channel.

Sources for This Article:
1.    Bakris G, Dickholtz M, Meyer PM, Kravitz G, Avery E, Miller M, Brown J, Woodfield C, Bell B. Atlas Vertebra Realignment and Achievement of Arterial Pressure Goal in Hypertensive Patients: A Pilot Study. J Human Hypertension, 2007; 21: 347-352.  
2.    Kessinger R. Changes in Pulmonary Function Associated with Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractic Care. J Vertebr Sublux Res, 1997; 1(3): 43-49.
3.    Klougart N, Nilsson N, Jacobsen J. Infantile Colic Treated by Chiropractors: A Prospective Study of 316 Cases. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 1989; 12: 281-288.
4.    Roth L, Zelman D, Clum L, Roth J. Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care as a Complementary Strategy for Depression and Anxiety: A Prospective Case Series Analysis (Case Report). J Upper Cervical Chiropr Res, 2013 (2): 49-59.


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