Home General Stress Relief And Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Understanding The Link

Stress Relief And Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Understanding The Link

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Stress is a frequent experience in today’s fast-paced, competitive society. Many people all around the world suffer from stress because of issues at work, in their personal lives, with their money, or with their health. Extended and chronic stress has been linked to numerous medical issues and even death, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, anxiety, and more. Thus, reducing stress is essential for sustaining physical and mental health. Vagus nerve stimulation is a stress-relieving method that has gained popularity in recent years.

What is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is one of the longest nerves in the body, as it extends all the way from the brainstem all the way down through the chest and the abdomen. It is an essential component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating many of the body’s activities, including the rate at which the heart beats, digestion, and breathing.

What is the purpose of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)?

In vagus nerve stimulation, also known as VNS, which is a method of medical treatment that involves stimulating the vagus nerve, electrical impulses are used. “vagus nerve stimulation” is what “VNS” stands for when abbreviated. The patient will then have a small device implanted in their chest, which will be connected to the nerve, and they will begin to receive regular electrical impulses. Moreover, the nerve is attached to the apparatus so that it may send and receive electrical impulses. The small device is known as the transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulator.

The vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a wide range of medical disorders, including epilepsy, depression, and chronic pain. It is also being looked at to see if it could help people with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Alzheimer’s disease.

It is not entirely clear how vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) achieves its effects, but one theory suggests that it has something to do with the modulation of neuronal activity in the brain and possibly other parts of the body as well. VNS has been shown to change many body functions, such as the heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammatory response.

How can VNS be stimulated?

Stimulating the vagus nerve, often known as “VNS” (vagus nerve stimulation), is a method that can be used to treat stress and anxiety. There are a variety of approaches that can be used in order to stimulate the vagus nerve, including the following:

  • Deep breathing. Breathing deeply can help relax the vagus nerve and bring about feelings of calmness by encouraging the diaphragm to expand and contract at a slower rate. Likewise, it is possible to stimulate the nerve and slow down one’s heart rate by taking a breath in via one’s nose and then exhaling through one’s mouth.
  • Yoga. The Fish Pose, the Bridge Pose, and the Downward-Facing Dog Pose are three examples of yoga postures that have the potential to stimulate the vagus nerve and bring about feelings of calm.
  • Meditation. Meditation and mindfulness can also help stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce stress. Meditation, which entails concentrating on one’s breathing and being fully present in one’s surroundings, is known to be beneficial for bringing serenity to both the mind and the body.
  • Electrical stimulation. Vagus nerve stimulation therapy, often known as “VNS therapy”, is a type of medical treatment that involves directly stimulating the vagus nerve through the utilisation of an electrical device. This treatment method is frequently implemented for patients suffering from epilepsy, depression, and migraines.
  • Massage. Stimulating the vagus nerve by massaging specific parts of the body, such as the neck, chest, and ears, can help relieve tension and promote relaxation.

Stimulating the vagus nerve has been shown to help with a number of health problems in addition to making people feel less stressed and anxious. Some of these benefits are that it helps digestion, reduces inflammation, and makes the immune system work better. VNS therapy, on the other hand, is a form of medical treatment that cannot be obtained without a doctor’s prescription and is not appropriate for everybody.

Research has shown that stimulating the vagus nerve is an effective way to lower anxiety and stress levels. A study was done in 2016 and published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. It looked at people with depression who didn’t respond to treatment. Researchers found that VNS helped these people feel much less anxious and sad.

Downside of VNS while treating stress

Although VNS has the potential to be helpful in lowering levels of stress and anxiety, it also has the potential to have adverse effects.  Some of the most common negative effects of VNS during treatment for stress relief are as follows:

  1. Hoarseness
  2. Headache
  3. Neck pain
  4. Nausea or vomiting
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Coughing
  7. Tingling or numbing sensation in the arms or hands
  8. Difficulty swallowing
  9. Muscle spasms

These adverse effects are typically not severe and get better with time as the body adjusts to the VNS therapy being administered. Still, it is very important that you see your doctor if the side effects keep happening or get worse at any time during treatment.

In addition to these common negative effects, patients who are treated for stress with VNS therapy may also feel tired or sleepy, which can make it hard for them to do their daily activities. Some people may also feel mood changes, such as anger or sadness.

Final thoughts

The vagus nerve is an important part of the autonomic nervous system, particularly in the transition between the “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” states. Stimulating this nerve through different exercises could improve health because it is involved in other important physical and mental processes. Yet not everyone benefits from exercising the vagus nerve. Experts say that if these methods don’t work or even make you feel worse, you should talk to a therapist for more personalized ways to deal with stress.


Helen Baumeister, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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