Inflammation is an everyday occurrence in our bodies. It generally gets a bad reputation; however, it is necessary to protect our bodies and to allow them to heal. Inflammation occurs with injuries but also in normal daily activities. In both situations, cellular and tissue breakdown can occur (to different degrees). In order to start healing, an inflammatory cascade begins.
With inflammation, an increase in bloodflow occurs which brings nutrition, oxygen and immune cells, all allowing for repair to commence. It can also cause some pain and swelling which will guard and protect an area from further harm. Generally our bodies can easily handle acute episodes of inflammation. However, what if it becomes chronic? Generalized pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, heart disease and other chronic conditions can be caused by long-term inflammation. How have our bodies lost control of its natural anti-inflammatory abilities?
Stress is a potent pro-inflammatory trigger. When we are stressed, our nervous system kicks into fight-or-flight mode, also known as our Sympathetic Nervous System. With Sympathetic stimulation, an increase in inflammation is noted. In short term, this is fine. In long term, the inflammation increases and begins to cause damage. The pro-inflammatory processes will not stop until the Sympathetic Nervous System is shut off. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is the opposing division. When the Parasympathetic Nervous System is engaged, it is restorative and anti-inflammatory. The Vagus Nerve, which is part of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, has significant inflammatory application. The Vagus Nerve controls our internal environment, largely through our organs. When the Vagus Nerve is disengaged for a long period of time, such as in cases of long term stress, inflammation increases. When the Vagus Nerve does not receive enough stimulation, it is shown to have slower reactivity or low tone. Basically, it doesn’t respond promptly. Therapies to increase Vagal tone have proven useful in lessening inflammation, pain and perception of stress.
CranioSacral therapy is a wonderful and specific technique to stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System. It also can focus on the Vagus Nerve and help to increase its tone. There are a few home exercises that can help too.
Humming is a vibration in the throat and vocal folds. These structures are innervated by the Vagus Nerve. By humming, it stimulates the Vagus Nerve. This will do two things, increase responsiveness of the Vagus Nerve and shut off the Sympathetic Nervous System. Singing loudly will do the same thing. WIN!
2. Deep belly breathing
Breathe in deep through the nose, expand your belly, hold it for the count of two. Exhale through your open mouth while making a “H” sound in the back of your throat. This will stimulate the Vagus by increasing chest pressure onto the nerve fibers on either side of the lungs and causing the throat to vibrate (innervated by the Vagus Nerve). WIN! WIN!
So, how can you help to reduce your inflammation? Schedule your CranioSacral session today, practice your breathing exercises and unleash your inner rockstar and sing in the car!!
Peace and trust,