Chronic neck-related symptoms without neck pain. Part 2: Vagus nerve and cervicovagopathy
Ross Hauser, MD.
Part 2 of 3 on common symptoms that can be related to cervical instability in patients who are not experiencing neck pain, specifically with impaired vagus nerve signaling to the organs, including the heart and digestive organs.
The video below is part of a three-piece series on Chronic neck-related symptoms without neck pain that deals with the neurologic-like, cardiovascular-type, neurologic-type, and digestive-type problems that patients suffer from that may be coming from compression in the neck. At first, doctors may not look at the neck because there may be no neck pain. This video explains how this may occur.
How can my neck be causing a symptom or a disease when I don’t have neck pain? That’s a really good question.
How can my neck be causing a symptom or a disease when I don’t have neck pain? That’s a really good question. In part one (Why someone can have neck-related symptoms but NOT have neck pain. Part 1: Jugular vein), I talked about how neck problems can obstruct the internal jugular vein or block cerebrospinal fluid flow. I believe that the most common cause of intracranial hypertension is ligamentous cervical instability, cervical instability ultimately leads to changes in the architecture of the bones where the cerebrospinal fluid gets slowed or blocked in the neck which can raise brain pressure or the neck structure can change. I call this cervical dysstructure. That problem can block the jugular veins especially when a person is sleeping. Anybody who wakes up or lies down and their symptoms aren’t any better probably has cervical dysstructure. Even when they’re laying down, their brains cannot properly move fluids in and out, they can’t drain the brain normally and they get a lot of the symptoms.
In the image below I will briefly describe cervical dysstructure.
The caption reads: “This patient not only lost the normal lordotic curve but now has an “S” shaped curve which unfortunately stretches all the vital neck neurovascular structures and can lead to intracranial hypertension, spinal cord damage, and cervical vagus nerve degeneration (cervicovagopathy).
The second reason that a person can have awful symptoms such as heart arrhythmias is a problem with the vagus nerve. I have a friend whose cardiologist is currently struggling to help him. My friend has bigeminy, his heart doesn’t beat right and other cardio-like symptoms. He came to visit us and after some diagnostic tests, we can safely suspect that a problem with his vagus nerve. Therefore we’re going to talk about how you can have a severe vagus nerve problem causing your symptoms and it’s a problem that can be occurring in a pain-free neck.
The shrinking vagus nerve
Let’s take a moment to explain the image below. It shows a shrinking vagus nerve. This is in-house data, the information taken from patient charts. What the data shows is that in 138 consecutive patients we saw at the Hauser Neck Center for suspected vagus nerve problems, the diameter of the vagus nerve in these patients averaged 1.2 millimeters. For less than the average vagus nerve diameter of 1.8 millimeters.
Further 47% of the new patients we see, have vagus nerve diameters that are even less. We call these extreme cases. These people have lost one-third of their vagus nerve neurons.
A note about teenagers
We see many adolescents who have horrible neck curves. These teenagers are having all sorts of health issues. They can’t think straight, they can’t problem solve, and their personality has changed (this is a significant symptom in suspecting vagus nerve problems). They have a very dysfunctional cervical curve that is messing up the brain pressure, the fluid flow in and out of the brain, they suffer from rage, stress, and anxiety. The vagus nerve is responsible for calming someone down. If the vagus function is altered, suppressed, or compromised, the ability to control rage is greatly diminished.
In cervicovagopathy, symptoms vary with the portion of the vagus nerve affected.
- Anterior gastric branches innervate the stomach and pyloric valve. Malfunction can cause symptoms of gastroparesis, low stomach acid, poor digestion, and pyloric stenosis.
- The auricular branch of the vagus nerve also called Alderman’s nerve or Arnold’s nerve provides ear canal sensation. Symptoms include Ear canal pain and sensitivity.
- Brainstem vagal nuclei are the relay station for all vagus nerve functions. Dysfunction of this branch can cause all the symptoms mentioned here.
- Bronchial branches. Dysfunction of these branches can result in shortness of breath, asthma, bronchitis, chronic cough, and allergic symptoms.
- Cardiac branches. Innervates the heart, and regulates heart function. Symptoms of dysfunction can include: arrhythmias, tachycardia, and cardiomyopathy.
- Celiac branch. Intestinal dysmotility digestion severe abdominal pain.
- Hepatic branch. Innervates liver and gallbladder. Symptoms include sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (the impairment of movement of bile and fluids from your pancreas into your small intestine.
- Pharyngeal branch. Innervates the muscles of swallowing. Dysfunction of the pharyngeal branch can result in swallowing difficulties.
- Laryngeal nerve. Innervates vocal cords. Dysfunction of the Laryngeal nerve can cause hoarseness, changes in voice quality, and difficulty singing.
We have a fantastic amount of information online that follows these symptoms of vagal compression. Please see my other articles:
- Vagus nerve compression in the neck: Symptoms and treatments
- SIBO: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and the Vagus nerve. The problem of nerve compression.
- Cervical spine problems, Vagus nerve compression, urinary incontinence
- Achalasia: A vagus nerve disorder and its connection to the neck
- Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), the Vagus Nerve and Cervical Spine instability
- Hiccups, Cough, Neck Pain, and Vagus and Phrenic Nerve Injury
- Mast cell activation syndrome and the vagus nerve
- Cluster headache treatment – cervical ligament instability and the trigeminal and vagus nerves
We hope you found this article informative and it helped answer many of the questions you may have surrounding the problems of cervical spine instability and the myriad of symptoms it may cause. Just like you, we want to make sure you are a good fit for our clinic prior to accepting your case. While our mission is to help as many people with chronic pain as we can, sadly, we cannot accept all cases. We have a multi-step process so our team can really get to know you and your case to ensure that it sounds like you are a good fit for the unique testing and treatments that we offer here.