Vagus Nerve Treatment with Craniosacral Therapy in New York City

The vagus nerve is one of the most complex nerves in the human body controlling and regulating important functions such as breathing, respiration, digestion, heart rate, hormone control, and much more.  The vagus nerve also has a tremendous impact on the immunization system, gut and mental health and since the brain uses it to send information to the body’s organs, the vagus nerve is the link between our mental and physical health also referred to as the “mind/body connection.” 

However when the vagus nerve is being compressed or is out of alignment, you will experience a range of unwelcomed symptoms that can harm your daily life and disturb your overall health.  As a Chiropractor and Craniosacral Therapist, I can assess your nervous system for anything interfering with the proper functioning of your vagus nerve and if so, correct the issue allowing it to heal and return to it’s full and best health.

Craniosacral therapy directly treats the cranial nerves (the vagus nerve being cranial nerve #10) and can shift the nervous system out of the fight or flight sympathetic nerve dominant state.  Over a few therapeutic sessions this can help in ‘rewiring’ the nervous system by increasing vagal tone (more on that below) and promoting sympatheticparasympathetic homeostasis or body system equilibrium. 

First, however, it’s important to understand the inner workings of the vagus nerve.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is both the longest cranial nerve and most multi-tasking. The Latin word vagus means ‘wandering’ and the vagus nerve is named so because it originates in the brain stem, then winds through the body connecting the brain with the inner organs branching to nearly every gland and organ in the thorax and abdomen (the area between your neck and waistline).

80% of the vagus nerve’s neurons (information messenger cells) are sensory, and they report the status of your organs back to your brain.  In fact the vagus nerve’s most important function is bringing information from the liver, gut, heart, lungs, etc, back to the brain. 

However the vagus nerve is classified as a parasympathetic nerve and one of its job’s is to relax or reduce your body’s stress and activities (cause the heart rate and other body responses to slow down) and support digestion (increase saliva release).  Contrarily, your sympathetic nervous system has the fight or flight response role and carries signals that put your body’s systems on high alert – and thus “therein lies the rub” (something that causes a difficulty).

Internal stability and balance of your body’s systems such as hormone secretion, circulation, respiration, digestion etc, needed to support life and these 2 contrasting activities (Sympathetic – Parasympathetic) need to be in balance to maintain the body’s homeostasis (balance, equilibrium). It’s a shared ‘balancing act’ where interferences like stress, spinal subluxation, negative experience, trauma, accident, etc., can ‘tip the scales’ throwing things off-kilter and have a broad and far-reaching effect on both your mental and physical health.

That’s because the sympathetic nervous system is associated with our fight-or-flight response and when activated through trauma or imminent danger – acts defensively and elevates all governed body systems (heart rate, blood flow, etc) to be on high alert and ‘at the ready’ to respond to danger.   

As long as these ‘high alert’ disruptive moments are brief, your vagus nerve healthy, and you’re living a healthy lifestyle, your parasympathetic nervous system deescalates things and signals the body to rest, digest, and repair – counterbalancing the fight or flight system and signaling for a relaxation response in our body.  

Thus if your parasympathetic nervous system is able to function properly, your body will ‘calm’ and return to a healthy state of homeostasis (balance).   

Since the two branches of the Autonomic Nervous System, the parasympathetic & sympathetic, are like scales seeking balance, they cannot both be activated at the same time.   Your body can only trigger one to act at a time, it’s alert or relax.  

Should this intricate and delicate balance be interrupted by physical trauma or emotional stress for an extended period of time, the body’s nervous system can become chronically sympathetic dominant and shift toward the most primitive form of defense—immobilization—and get stuck there shutting down keeping you living around the clock in a state of high alert.    

This can result in high blood pressure, elevated levels of stress hormones, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of physiological and psychological problems.   Humans have not evolved to use this primitive form of defense on a regular or sustaining basis—and we are not good at shifting from immobilization defensive high alert back to balanced homeostasis. 

When the primitive vagus nerve pathways are activated, heavily tilted toward the sympathetic nervous system for prolonged periods of time and entrenched in place, it’s very hard for the body’s nervous system to move back into a state of feeling safe and balanced homeostasis – without professional therapeutic intervention.  The good news is that using what is known about the vagus nerve and the central nervous system I can help your body get unstuck from a “high anxiety filled” stressful sympathetic dominant state and return you to a healthy balanced homeostasis.

In summary, the vagus nerve seeks balance which can mean anything from controlling the resting heart rate to swallowing and digesting food, and has the following basic functions:

  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Producing anti-stress hormones
  • Keeping the lungs breathing
  • Supporting immune and stem cell function

Basically, the brain and the vagus nerve communicate with each other to enable the body to shift to a “rest and digest” state.  Your brain informs your body, through the vagus nerve, that your surrounding environment is safe. That assurance stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which in signals the “rest and digest” functions in organs such as the heart, lungs, throat, esophagus, and stomach.  

Symptoms of Vagus Nerve Dysfunction

There are many signs and symptoms of a Vagal Tone dysfunction and include:

  • Increased anxiety and nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Pain
  • Poor digestion
  • A lower immune response
  • Increased inflammation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Decreased speech and communication
  • Unusual heart rate or breathing patterns
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD).
  • Changes to blood pressure or blood sugar
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Hoarseness, wheezing or loss of voice.
  • Unexplained weight loss, no appetite, feeling full quickly
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Strange Neurological symptoms

Research Determining Chiropractic Adjustments Resolve Vagus Nerve Dysfunction Symptoms

As is supported with this research the best way to resolve vagus dysfunction symptoms is to get treated by a chiropractor who specializes in neurological-based chiropractic care. Fortunately this is exactly what I offer in providing both chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy, which is neurological with focus on natural healing. The focus in on stimulating the flow of Cerebro Spinal Fluid (CSF).

Research has determined upper cervical (neck) gentle chiropractic adjustments focusing on the vagus nerve located on the spine, at the level of the neck directly adjacent to the atlas C1 vertebra effectively stimulates the vagus nerve to sufficiently to turn off an over stimulated sympathetic nervous system and return an under-stimulated parasympathetic calming activity. 

The research concluded that targeted chiropractic adjustments realigned the atlas vertebra and essentially removed “pressure” from the vagus nerve, restoring proper function.   The research also documented an immediate reduction in inflammation, lowered blood pressure, and later showed signs of reduced anxiety, stress, and depression upon the participants of the study. 

The healthier your vagus nerve response, the more likely and faster you are to recover after feeling stress.  The key to calming yourself down quickly and not incur the negative health repercussions of enduring stress, improving the health of your vagus nerve is an excellent place to start.  This is why and how the vagus nerve is also referred to as your body’s internal brake pedal able to subdue levels anxiety, depression and stress among other things.  

Research in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews determined “improved functioning of the vagal tone can result in promoting emotional resilience.”   More research has indicated reinvigorating the health of the vagus nerve should be a first-line treatment for both cluster and migraine headaches. 

Vagus Nerve Assessment and Treatment in New York City

Medical research has linked many chronic diseases to altered vagus nerve function, assessed and detected through vagal tone or heart rate variability readings. 

One of the primary tests used to assess the functioning and efficiency of the vagus nerve is measuring the vagal tone, which.   Vagal tone is akin to ‘balance’ and refers to the activity level of our vagus nerve and we all have a specific Vagal tone. The strength of our vagal tone is measured by how fast our body can relax after stress. The stronger your vagus activity, the quicker your body returns to a relaxed state after a stressful moment. 

Vagal tone is determined by measuring your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate accelerates a little when you inhale and slows down somewhat when you exhale. The greater the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the greater your vagal tone.  A high-level vagal tone indicates your body can return to a relaxed state faster after a stressful event. 

A high vagal tone enables your body to regulate blood glucose levels more accurately and lowers the likelihood of things like stroke, diabetes, or other types of cardiovascular diseases. A higher vagal tone indicates your ability to lower your blood pressure, reduce headaches, and improve digestion via better production of stomach enzymes. A higher vagal tone is also associated with feeling less anxiety and a better mood and feeling less anxiety.   

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a higher vagal tone is being able to quickly relax after a stressful event.  That applies to both physical stress from a workout at the gym, mental stress from work, or emotional stress from loved ones.  We all face stressors on a daily basis and learning to navigate and respond appropriately is essential for maintaining physical and mental well-being.  

As a Chiropractor and Craniosacral Therapist, the importance of vagus nerve in not only maintaining health but allowing the body to cope with stress.   In serving patients I’ve found that many times they have a spinal misalignment or subluxation in the upper cervical (neck) area, and head region which is very treatable with gentle chiropractic adjustments and craniosacral therapy.  Craniosacral therapy directly treats the vagus nerve being cranial nerve #10, and can help ‘rewire’ the nervous system by increasing vagal tone and promoting sympatheticparasympathetic homeostasis or body system equilibrium. Dr. Kaminsky also uses Biosonic tunning forks with a “Vagal Tone” protocol, as taught by Dr. John Beaulieu. If you’re noticing any of the signs or symptoms of vagus nerve issues or simply interested in having the health of your vagus nerve assessed and treated, don’t hesitate to call me at (212) 328-1180.


About Dr. Kaminsky & Craniosacral Therapy

Dr. Kaminsky is a 1999 graduate of the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic. He is licensed to practice in NY and has completed close to three thousand hours of professional continuing education since becoming licensed in March of 2000.

The primary approach used in his office is Craniosacral Therapy (CST) which is a method focusing on the cranium (head) and sacrum (a large bone at the base of the spine) scientifically proven to control life sustaining fluid flow throughout the body.

Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on manual therapy approach that brings about healing via the fluidity of the body. The existence of the Craniosacral System was first discovered by Osteopath Dr. William Sutherland in the early 1900’s, calling it Cranial Osteopathy.  And later rediscovered, validated, and developed by Dr. John Upledger in the late 70’s early 80’s, who renamed it Craniosacral Therapy after doing five years of research at the Michigan State University, School of Medicine. In 1983 Dr. John, as he was fondly called, established a teaching institute in Palm Beach, Florida, to teach this cranial sacral method to all healthcare providers. The Upledger Institute is still very active today.

The craniosacral mechanism pumps fluid which is produced in the brain, called cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), through the fascial network of the body, the purpose of which is to lubricate joints, muscles, organs, all cells and all tissues. It is the driving life force for your body’s systems to function properly, CSF also carries healing properties to bodily traumas, injuries and past surgeries.

The proper function of your cranial sacral mechanism, via CSF flow, maintains the normal tone of your muscles, provide nutrients to your organs, and keeps you out of pain. It sustains human life and allows your nervous system to stay responsive to challenges of daily living and your mind-body life experiences. The better your craniosacral mechanism functions, the better the flow of this life sustaining fluid, the better your body can handle physical and emotional stress. The uninhibited flow of this fluid throughout your body allows you to thrive, opposite of survival mode.

CSF is part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) brain and spinal cord), which is physically encapsulated within the dural membranes of the spine and head.

One of the functions inside of your brain is to automatically generate energetic rhythmic impulses that function to pump CSF throughout your body, regulating your peripheral nerves, nervous system and organ systems, which in turn, sustain your function (physiology) and life. It is an important force that maintains everything functioning in your body. This is what we call the Craniosacral System, or Craniosacral Mechanism. It is the hydraulic, energetic and rejuvenating system of your body.

This measurable life force of moving fluid is palpable to a trained craniosacral therapist, like the heart rhythm, pulse rhythm, breathing rate, that can all be felt, so too can the Cranial Sacral Rhythm (CSR) be palpated and measured. It is the foundational diagnostic tool in real-time used to evaluate your current state of well-being (or lack thereof), and potential for health improvement and healing.

Compromises of your rhythmic impulse, correlates to CSF flow restrictions in the system which the body is unable to self-correct or overcome on its own. This is the reason why over time we develop pain, dis-ease, symptoms, conditions, mind-body disconnect and basically all human physical and psychological ailments.

When the fluid isn’t flowing optimally, your bodily rejuvenation is affected, and this is where the skill of an experienced craniosacral therapist becomes valuable. By placing his or her hands on your body, most commonly on your head and sacrum, for diagnostic purposes, the practitioner can detect, feel, evaluate, and rate the SSQAR (strength, symmetry, quality, amplitude, rate) of the rhythm; then bring forth correction of any limitations with subsequent experienced hand placements on different parts the body during a session.

A craniosacral therapist helps your rhythm reset, restore and renew allowing for healing to take place of the mind-body connection, musculoskeletal tightness and spasms, neurological deficits, autoimmune issues, organ function, many common conditions, and of course pain. Through a practitioners properly focused and attuned touch, your body is facilitated to release channels of fluid stagnation and flow restriction, which ultimately breakthrough, overcome and improve CSR and the function of vital fluid flow.

Dr. Alex Kaminsky is an advanced practitioner of Craniosacral therapy, having studied up to advanced levels including SER and pediatric courses. He has built a solid foundation with many years of experience, treating babies, children and adults.

To learn more, visit the other pages on this website. Call to schedule your appointment with Dr. Kaminsky.