How Stimulating Your Vagus Nerve Can Help Your Pelvic Floor and Improve Your Health
The vagus nerve has been a buzz word on social media lately and I’m actually pumped about it! Let’s go into a little more detail about what it actually is, how it works, and how it plays a role in your pelvic health!
What is the Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and affects systems of the throat, lungs, GI tract, and even as low as the cervix! This nerve has a direct connection to our fight or flight response and rest and digest. We can think of the vagus nerve’s functionality in two ways: high vagal tone or low vagal tone.
Vagal tone refers to how our body responds and processes stressors/threats. For example, someone with low vagal tone will have a more intense reaction to a stressful event than someone with high vagal tone. We know that women who experience stress or have a prolonged amount of stress in their lives tend to carry more muscular tension in their bodies. This elevated tension translates into increased pelvic floor muscle issues (urinary leaking, painful sex, constipation for example). Regulating your nervous system is a key part of managing these pelvic floor issues.
Stimulating Your Vagus Nerve
We know that connecting to (or “stimulating”) your vagus nerve can help lower stress and anxiety. This is a topic we discuss with our patients in depth when managing a pelvic health condition and can be a key way to help improve your overall health.
Everyone uses different methods, but here are a few we recommend!
Diaphragmatic breathing: this involves breathing into both the rib cage and the abdomen. During this exercise your pelvic floor muscles should relax and lengthen on the inhale and on the exhale they should return to baseline.
Humming/singing: this stimulates your vocal chords which in turn stimulates the vagus nerve. It sends out a calming message to our muscles to relax and shift into a “rest and digest” state.
Mindful movement/bilateral movements: Yoga, walks, or dance parties are all great tools to manage stress and help the body shift into a more relaxed state. Research shows us that bilateral movements (moving both sides of the body) help ground our nervous system.
If you are experiencing elevated stress, suffer from anxiety, experience poor sleep, or have bowel issues, trying these simple steps can be a great way to help regulate your nervous system and begin a pathway to healing your pelvic floor issues.
- Free Pelvic Floor Screens
- 1:1 visits
- Therapeutic Massage
- Trigger Point Dry Needling
Written by Dr. Bria Stark