AtlasPROfilax® and the Vagus Nerve - by Kathleen Lewis, D.C.
Have you had or seen patients resp. clients with swallowing problems eased by an AtlasPROfilax® treatment? Or tachycardia that decreased? Or that patients stated that their constipation was improved or eliminated following the atlas realignment? What is the direct connection between an AtlasPROfilax® treatment and improvement of these symptoms?
The vagus nerve supplies sensory and motor innervation to aid in swallowing. The sensory component is provided by the superior laryngeal nerve. If this nerve is compressed, it may be difficult for the person to initiate swallowing. The main motor component of the vagus nerve is the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN). The RLN controls the muscles involved in swallowing.
Regarding injury to the RLN, McCulloch and Jaffe (1) state that “symptoms often include dysphagia, primarily with liquid, poor cough and weak voice. Of more significance is vagal injury at or near the skull base. This adds a component of pharyngeal motor weakness…”.
The vagus nerve supplies parasympathetic stimulation to the myocardium, the muscular wall of the heart. Stimulation of the vagus nerve releases acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that slows down the heart rate.
Tachycardia is defined as a fast or irregular heartbeat. There are many types of tachycardia, but all can lead to oxygen deprivation. Resulting symptoms can include shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness, syncope and chest pain. Dysfunction of the vagus nerve can lead to tachycardia.
The vagus nerve provides parasympathetic control to the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and the ascending and transverse colon. Parasympathetic stimulation causes increased secretions and local blood flow, and promotes peristalsis and the defecation reflex. Dysfunction of the vagus at any level can result in poor digestion and constipation.
How does performing the AtlasPROfilax® method impact the vagus nerve?
Remember that after it exits the skull, the vagus nerve on each side is just anterior to the sternocleidomastoid muscle insertion at the mastoid process of the temporal bone. The vagus may be susceptible to compression due to rotation of the atlas, hypertonic neck muscles, postural imbalances or altered tonus regulation of cervical fascia. The AtlasPROfilax® method has been shown to derotate the atlas, induce relaxation of hypertonic neck muscles, correct postural imbalances and possibly alter the tone of cervical fascia. These are some of the mechanisms by which vagus nerve functions may be improved after an AtlasPROfilax® treatment.
The explanations of vagus nerve anatomy and function in this article are by no means exhaustive. Detailed descriptions of the vagus nerve are referenced below (2.)(3.)(4.).
It is important to be familiar with the various functions of the vagus nerve. Patients and health experts may not be aware that the AtlasPROfilax® method may help with vagus-related issues, and patients may not report non-cervical pain or dysfunction at the initial visit. The practitioner should take a thorough history before application of the method and ask detailed questions at the follow-up. In this way, patients will better understand the benefits they may receive from the AtlasPROfilax® method.
Footnote and References
- Timothy McCulloch M.D. & Debra Jaffe, M.D. Head and neck disorders affecting swallowing. GI Motility Online (2006). Published 16 May 2006.
- Ted L. Tewfik, M.D., et al. Vagus Nerve Anatomy. Medscape: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1875813-overview. Updated December 8, 2017.
- Jean-Pierre Barral and Alain Croibier. Manual Therapy for the Cranial Nerves. Churchill Livingstone, 2009.
- Paul Rea. Clinical Anatomy of the Cranial Nerves. Academic Press, 2014.
© 2018 Kathleen Lewis. All Rights Reserved.