Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Treatment & Stimulation

By Med-Fit UK  .  Last Updated Saturday, 4th May 2024

What is the Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve, or vagal nerves, play a central role in controlling vital functions of the parasympathetic nervous system. This system governs involuntary bodily processes like digestion, heart rate, and immunity.

Comprising 75% of the nerve fibers in the parasympathetic nervous system, the left and right vagal nerves facilitate communication between the brain, heart, and digestive system. Positioned as the 10th of the 12 cranial nerves, the vagus nerve is designated as cranial nerve X.

In the human body, 12 cranial nerves function in pairs, establishing vital connections between the brain and various regions such as the head, neck, and torso. While some convey sensory data, others regulate muscle movement and glandular activity. Remarkably, the vagus nerve performs both sensory and motor functions, earning its recognition as cranial nerve X.

Vagus nerve stimulation employs electrical impulses to activate the nerve, which extends from the lower brain through the neck to the chest and stomach, modulating brain activity to address specific medical conditions.

Various methods and devices facilitate vagus nerve stimulation. One such device, is an implantable vagus nerve stimulator, alleviates symptoms of epilepsy and depression by targeting specific brain areas. Another device aids stroke rehabilitation by promoting neuroplasticity to aid in motor function recovery.

Implanted beneath the chest skin, these devices connect with the left vagus nerve via wires, bypassing the right vagus nerve to avoid interference with heart function. Additionally, noninvasive options exist, including a device for cluster headaches and migraines, delivering external stimulation to the neck to alleviate pain signals.

Ongoing research explores vagus nerve stimulation's potential applications in treating various conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, bipolar disorder, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease. A lot of reports currently are still on going to be able to offer more mass market options to those looking for vagus nerve stimulation, however many people typically go for the more natural approach in stimulating the vagus nerve. 

What's the Function of the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve plays a pivotal role in steering your body away from the fight-or-flight response, ensuring its smooth transition into rest and digest mode, as depicted in mnemonic rhymes like "feed and breed" and "rest and digest."

This nerve orchestrates a wide array of bodily functions, including heart rate regulation, taste perception, speech, sensory and muscle sensations, immune response, respiratory rate, blood pressure, mucus and saliva production, digestion, and mood modulation.

In contrast, the sympathetic nervous system, a counterpart to the parasympathetic nervous system, triggers the fight-or-flight response when needed, operating within the autonomic nervous system framework.

The vagus nerve offers promising therapeutic avenues for various conditions:

  • Treatment-resistant depression: Vagus nerve stimulation has emerged as a potential treatment option, particularly for cases resistant to conventional therapies, possibly due to its influence on gut health.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Researchers are investigating vagus nerve stimulation as an alternative to medications with harsh side effects, given its anti-inflammatory signaling capabilities.
  • Epilepsy: There are types of therapy that help stimulations - vagal nerve stimulation therapy holds promise in reducing seizures by stabilizing irregular brain activity.

Functionally, the vagus nerve encompasses sensory, special sensory, motor, and parasympathetic functions, contributing to the overall balance of the nervous system

The nerve also facilitates bidirectional communication between the brain and gut, aids in relaxation through deep breathing, mitigates inflammation, and regulates heart rate and blood pressure. Excessive vagus nerve activity can lead to complications such as fainting and organ damage, highlighting its crucial role in managing fear and stress responses.

Where is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerves, deriving their name from the Latin term for wandering, embark on a meandering journey from the brain to the large intestine. 

Emerging from the medulla oblongata in the lower brainstem (almost found in the back of your neck), these nerves traverse through critical regions including the neck, chest, heart, lungs, and abdomen. 

Intricately connecting with each vital area along their path, the vagus nerves split into left and right branches, extending their reach from the brain to the large intestines. 

Below the esophagus, these branches reunite to form the "vagal trunk," an extensive network that provides nerve signals to specific areas of the body such as the voice box, throat, spine, ears, esophagus, heart, and lungs.

Conditions & Disorders affecting the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve can be implicated in various conditions, including:

  • Gastroparesis: This condition arises when damage to the vagus nerve disrupts the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines. Causes of vagal nerve damage may include diabetes, viral infections, abdominal surgery, and scleroderma.
  • Vasovagal Syncope: Vasovagal syncope, commonly known as fainting, occurs when a vagus nerve connected to the heart reacts excessively to specific triggers such as extreme heat, anxiety, hunger, pain, or stress. This reaction can lead to a rapid drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension), resulting in dizziness or fainting episodes.

Therapeutic Applications:

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) holds promise in enhancing physical health and addressing various conditions:

  1. Epilepsy: VNS is frequently employed to manage epilepsy, often in combination with anti-epileptic medications. By modulating abnormal brain activity, VNS can potentially reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of seizures. It's important to note that the effects of VNS therapy may take up to two years to fully manifest. Beyond seizure control, VNS may aid in post-seizure recovery and improve overall well-being, mood, alertness, and cognitive function in individuals with epilepsy.
  2. Mental Health: VNS demonstrates positive effects on mental health, offering potential relief for chronic treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By influencing both somatic and cognitive symptoms associated with stress-related conditions, VNS stimulation may help regulate emotions, fostering a sense of calmness, clarity, and compassion.
  3. Cardiovascular and Immune Benefits: VNS therapy may contribute to enhanced immunity, decreased heart rate, and lower blood pressure levels. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory properties make it a valuable adjunctive therapy for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Signs of problems with the vagus nerve

The vagus nerve, a crucial component of the body's nervous system, can exhibit dysfunction leading to a spectrum of symptoms. 

Here's a breakdown of the signs and conditions associated with vagus nerve issues:


  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Acid reflux (GERD)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fluctuations in blood sugar levels
  • Changes in heart rate (both slow and fast)
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of gag reflex

Specific Conditions:

  1. Gastroparesis:
    - Impaired stomach emptying
    - Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, early satiety, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
    - Management may involve vagal nerve stimulation.
  2. Heart Rate Issues:
    - Vagal nerve dysfunction can lead to bradycardia (slow heart rate) or tachycardia (fast heart rate).
    - Vagal maneuvers may be employed to regulate heart rate.

Understanding the Impact:

  • Extent of Damage: Vagal nerve damage can disrupt various bodily functions due to the nerve's extensive reach and influence.
  • Management Strategies: Addressing vagus nerve dysfunction often involves a multifaceted approach, including lifestyle modifications, medication, and sometimes surgical interventions.
  • Research Advances: Ongoing studies explore the effectiveness of vagal nerve stimulation therapy in managing conditions like gastroparesis, offering hope for improved treatment outcomes.

What is vagus nerve stimulation?

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a medical procedure that employs mild electrical impulses to activate the left vagus nerve. This nerve stimulation device is implanted beneath the skin in the chest area, with a connecting wire linking it to the nerve. 

These gentle electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the brain, where they help to regulate abnormal brain activity. There have been other forms of treatment through the use of A TENS machine or similar machine and using an ear clip that can link to your Vagus Nerve. 

These types of treatments have been known and reported to have helped with epilepsy and depression resistant to standard therapies, VNS is also being studied for its potential effectiveness in managing cluster headaches, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and rheumatoid arthritis.

Experts speculate that VNS may offer broader health benefits beyond its current applications. They believe the vagus nerve could serve as a vital link between depression, metabolic diseases, and heart disease. If further research confirms this, VNS could potentially be utilised to address a wide range of health issues.

The procedure typically involves implanting the device under the skin in the chest area, where it remains connected to the left vagus nerve. Once activated, the device sends signals through the nerve to the brainstem, relaying information to the brain. 

While a neurologist initially programs the device, patients often receive a handheld magnet for self-management. VNS holds promise for treating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, posterior autoimmune uveitis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cluster headaches, offering hope for expanded therapeutic options in the future.

Natural Ways to Stimulate your Vagus Nerve

Boosting your stress resilience and enhancing overall well-being can be accomplished through a variety of natural methods aimed at strengthening the vagus nerve.

  • Meditation: Begin with meditation, a practice renowned for its ability to calm the mind and improve focus through deep-breathing exercises. During meditation, prioritize exhales that are longer than your inhales, as they can effectively slow down heart rhythms.
  • Yoga and even Hot Yoga: Yoga is another valuable tool for vagal health. Stay mindful of your breath while practicing yoga postures to synchronize mind and body.
  • Exercise & Training: Regular exercise is also crucial for enhancing vagus nerve function. Both interval training and endurance workouts can boost vagal activity and promote a balanced cardiovascular and respiratory system.
  • A Lovely Massage: Massage therapy, particularly reflexology, can increase vagal tone and decrease blood pressure. Try self-administered foot massages involving ankle rotations, gentle strokes on the sole, and toe stretches.
  • Music: Music has the potential to uplift spirits and may stimulate the vagus nerve. While scientific evidence is inconclusive, the nerve's connections to vocal cords and the inner ear suggest a possible influence of music on vagal stimulation. Whether it's humming, singing, or listening to soothing melodies, music can offer a therapeutic escape.
  • Cold Water Immersion, Showers, Plunge Pools and more: Explore the rejuvenating effects of cold-water immersion, a practice endorsed by various individuals, including public figures and elite athletes. Cold-water immersion provides immediate relief from stress, making it a popular choice for relaxation.

Products Trending with Customers

For those looking for product typically bought by those looking to stimulate their Vagus Nerve, a lot of customers and those interested in VNS have been known to buy a tens machine and an ear clip. 

These two products are typically bought:

1. Pro Tens Machine

2. Tens Ear Clip 

Customers have reported positive and interesting results from buying and using these specific products. This all being said, this is a customers preference, rather than our companies recommending this type of treatment.