Over 50 million Americans live with chronic pain conditions. If you’re one of them, you know how difficult it can be to get through your day. One option that may be a good fit for you is vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).
But what is vagus nerve stimulation? Will it be a good choice for your condition?
Read this guide to learn more.
Table of Contents
What Is the Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is the longest in the body extending from the brainstem down to the stomach and affecting involuntary bodily functions. It is responsible for many vital functions, including heart rate, digestion, and immunity.
Despite its name, the vagus nerve is a pair of nerves, the left and right vagus nerves. Each vagus nerve has two main branches: the cranial and pelvic branches.
The cranial branch controls the muscles of the face and head, and the pelvic branch controls the muscles of the abdomen and pelvis. The vagus nerves also have many smaller branches that control the functions of the heart, lungs, digestive system, and other organs.
What Is Vagus Nerve Stimulation?
Vagus nerve stimulation treats various conditions by stimulating the vagus nerve. It can be stimulated in several ways, including massage, acupuncture, and electrical stimulation.
The vagus nerve stimulator is a small device implanted under the skin. The device sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve that runs from the brain to the chest and abdomen.
The pulse generator is usually turned on and off, and the electrical impulses can be adjusted to provide the desired effect. Click here to learn more about how pulse generators work.
Benefits and Risks
Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is a relatively new therapy showing promise for several conditions, including epilepsy, depression, anxiety, arthritis, and chronic pain. It may also be helpful for headaches, inflammatory bowel disease, bipolar disorder, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is a relatively new therapy showing promise for several conditions, including epilepsy, depression, anxiety, arthritis, and chronic pain. It may also be helpful for headaches, inflammatory bowel disease, bipolar disorder, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.
While VNS is considered safe, it can lead to serious side effects like fainting, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing. Side effects are often tolerable, and over time, they become unnoticeable.
Things to Consider
Ensure that you understand other treatment choices other than using vagus nerve stimulation. If you are considering VNS, discussing the risks and benefits with your doctor is essential.
VNS is a promising treatment for many conditions, but it is still relatively new and not well-understood. Discuss with your health insurance carriers as some may not pay for this procedure.
Inquire and settle your expectations before the surgery to implant the pulse generator. You may receive instructions on your medications and fasting before the procedure.
Invest in Yourself
If you’re interested in trying vagus nerve stimulation to improve your health, consult with a medical professional to see if it’s right for you. Vagus nerve stimulation can have a positive impact on your overall well-being.
For more medical topics and lifestyle pieces, check out some other posts on the site.