Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates the functions of our vital internal organs, such as the heart, stomach, kidneys, and intestines. The ANS is part of the peripheral nervous system and controls some of the muscles within the body.
We are often unaware of our ANS because it functions involuntarily and reflexively. For example, we do not notice when blood vessels change size or when our heart beats faster. It just happens.
The ANS affects our:
- Cardiovascular system
- Respiratory rate
- Body temperature
- Pupillary diameter & accommodation (changes in vision)
- Urinary & bowel functions
- Gastrointestinal motility
- Metabolic & endocrine physiology
- Adaptive responses to stress
The Importance of ANS Regulation
The ANS is divided into two major subsystems: the Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the Sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
The sympathetic nervous system is better known for being in command of our fight-or-flight responses, while our parasympathetic nervous system regulates our rest + digest functionality.
Your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems have opposite but complementary roles. Your sympathetic nervous system carries signals that put your body’s systems on alert, and your parasympathetic carries signals that return those systems to their standard activity levels.
Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance
Individuals can find themselves in sympathetic dominance during high periods of stress. If our SNS is turned up, our bodies believe we are in emergency response mode, i.e., running from a bear versus taking a leisurely walk. Symptoms of being in sympathetic dominance include:
- increased muscle tension
- digestive issues
- shallow breathing or shortness of breath
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- flushed and/or increased sweating
- panic attacks
- poor sleep
Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance
Individuals can find themselves in parasympathetic dominance following high periods of stress (e.g.: when you get sick after a big deadline or following a car accident or other trauma). If our PNS is working overtime, our bodies believe we need to be in a state of rest or healing. This can be a good thing for a short duration, but a prolonged stint in this state can be dysregulating. Symptoms of being in parasympathetic dominance include:
- heart rhythm problems
- decreased muscle tension
- digestive issues
- decreased or low heart rate and blood pressure
- fatigue or low-energy
How Chiropractic Care Helps to Regulate Our Autonomic Nervous System
Areas of our spine correlate with different parts of our autonomic nervous system, including our PNS and SNS. Your head, neck, and tailbone regions house some of your body’s parasympathetic control, and your thoracic region houses some of your body’s sympathetic control.
By getting regular adjustments with Dr. Lydia and Dr. Bethanie, you can help regulate these two parts of your nervous system, keeping them in equilibrium and supporting your body’s need for homeostasis.
Schedule a visit for chiropractic care at Vaida and help your body keep your autonomic nervous system running smoothly.