Richard A. Laviano, DC, ND, FSBCT(c)
My doctor has recommended applied kinesiology to rebalance my vagus nerve.
Sounds like voodoo to me…. What exactly is applied kinesiology?
The importance of the vagus nerve for so many of our bodily function has been proven again and again in multiple medical studies. The vagus nerve runs from your brainstem down to your intestinal tract and is the ringmaster of your autonomic nervous system, all things “rest and digest”. When the vagus nerve is out of balance, it has the potential to create widespread dysfunction from intestinal motility (think small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) to quick “fight or flight” reactivity, anxiety, and even panic attacks. A simple PubMed search of vagus nerve pops up34,789 results! We at CTW have come to rely on the finely tuned skills of practitioners expert in using modalities to rebalance the vagus. One of the most powerful, only in very experienced hands, is applied kinesiology (AK). Dr Rick Laviano of Falls Chiropractic and Injury in Raleigh explains below the role of AK.
Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a neurological rehabilitation therapy. At the International College of Applied Kinesiology in 2005 (1) Dr. Walter Schmitt eloquently presented a model that thoroughly explains it. He explains AK as an assessment and therapy that positively affects neurological function. We quote it here and explain it more simply below.
AK is a series of sensory receptor based diagnostic challenges followed by monitoring of manual muscle testing outcomes. All AK techniques are about creating sensory receptor stimulation that results in a net effect of excitation and inhibition leading to more optimal neurological function. These positive changes can be observed through somatic windows by changes toward normal in muscle facilitation and inhibition(muscle balance, range of motion, deep tendon reflexes) and through various autonomic windows that can also be monitored (pupil light response, blood pressure, heart rate, etc.) (pg. 1)
AK uses muscle tests as well as other neurological tests to assess the state of your nervous system. When there is poor neurological function discovered, the doctor tries his or her best to find the neurological therapy that will improve it. For example, the brainstem (area of the brain just above your neck), controls most of the things in your abdominal cavity subconsciously like your heartrate, blood pressure, gut motility, gut valves, and liver detox. We can see how healthy the brainstem is by looking at reflexes that live there, like how fast your pupils react to a shining light, or how your jaw moves, or how your balance is, or how your blood pressure compares from one side to another (2,4).
A physician trained in AK will use these nerdy tools to pinpoint what part of the nervous system may be dormant or over-excited. Then they will wake it up or calm it down through a targeted therapy such as rubbing, tapping, stretching, manipulation, eye movements, muscle/fascial work etc. AK specialists can be considered your body electricians! The ultimate goal is to improve function in the nervous system to thus improve total body health and wellness.
Since the nervous system controls every function in our bodies, there have been many types of cases Applied Kinesiologists have seen over the years. Cases that are often seen include gut/microbiome issues. It is important that these patients understand that the gut microbiome is STRONGLY influenced by the state of their gut nervous system. Improving the integrity of the nervous system in these patients can greatly improve their quality of life.
Another point worth mentioning regarding gut issues includes the trigeminal nerves. The largest cranial nerve in our brain is the trigeminal nerve. This nerve coordinates information regarding the teeth, jaw, head, and even your posture (3)!This nerve integrates (strongly connects) with the vestibular, ocular, and cerebellar reflexes that affect the health of the brainstem, even the health of the vagus nerve. By keeping the trigeminal nerve and its connections in the brainstem healthy, vagal tone is optimal! In treating gut problems, the priority is making sure that trigeminal, head, eyes, and balance organs are in tune with one another for the health of the autonomic nervous system including the vagus nerve and ultimately the gut.
1. Schmitt, Walter H., The Neurological Rationale for a Comprehensive Clinical Protocol Using Applied Kinesiology Techniques. Proceedings of the I.C.A.K. – U.S.A. Annual Meeting, Volume 1,2005-2006. p. 157-191.
2. Monaco, A., Cattaneo, R., Mesin, L., Ciarrocchi,I., Sgolastra, F., & Pietropaoli, D. (2012). Dysregulation of the autonomous nervous system in patients with temporomandibular disorder: a pupillometric study.
3. Cuccia, A., & Caradonna, C. (2009). The relationship between the stomatognathic system and body posture. Clinics, 64(1),61-66.
4. Applied Kinesiology Synopsis: David S. Walther. 1988.
Your Partners In Health,
Richard A. Laviano, DC, ND, FSBCT(c) and Ana Dávila, DC Falls Chiropractic and Injury, Raleigh NC
Frances T Meredith, MD Carolina Total Wellness