Sympathetic Facilitation (Fixable with chiropractic care)
Each function of the human body is controlled and mediated by the activation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS consists of two major players, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
The SNS and PNS are inhibitory to each other, meaning when one is excited, or turned on, the other must be inhibited, or turned off. As you can see in the picture below, each system’s action contradicts the other’s function. The SNS is responsible for the body’s flight or fight response to a stress, and the PNS is responsible for digestive function in a relaxed state as well as the maintenance of the body at rest.
When the SNS is activated, the digestive functions of the body are inhibited. When you respond to a fight or flight scenario, it is important to prioritize the blood flow of the body; shunting it from the digestive system and using it to allow maximum muscle function and mental clarity to protect the body.
This is a part of Sympathetic Facilitation.
The pathways of these two systems are much different. The SNS is a chain that follows the spinal column. The spinal column consists of 24 vertebrae and a sacral segment. Spinal nerves, which control every function of the human body, stem from the joint space between these spinal segments. Each organ in the human body is innervated by specific spinal nerves, from specific spinal levels. The most important area for the SNS is the thoracic region, or the mid back. Nerves derived from the thoracic region are the make-up of the sympathetic nervous system that controls the majority of our internal organs.
Sympathetic Facilitation can be caused by fixations of the spinal segments. To start, I will explain the two types of receptors in the spinal column, mechanoreceptors and nociceptors. Mechanoreceptors are responsible for the detection of motion. For instance, as you walk or bend over the mechanoreceptors relay that motion to the brain to activate muscles to maintain proper biomechanics and prevent injury. Nociceptors are responsible for relaying pain stimuli to the brain. Mechanoreceptors are connected to a larger diameter nerve bundle, so their stimuli travel faster than the smaller sized nociceptor nerve bundles, and have the potential to override pain or a sympathetic stimulus. For example, if you were to burn your arm, nociceptors are responsible for telling your brain that it hurts, and that you need to move your arm to prevent further injury. When you experience a burn, what is the first thing that you do? You rub your arm quickly to attempt to ease the pain. You’re actually activating the mechanoreceptors, or movement receptors, to block the nociceptors from signaling the brain that you are in pain.
A spinal fixation, or hypomobile segment, allows for sympathetic facilitation by way of a decreased stimulus threshold at that spinal level. Overtime, with a lack of mobility of particular spinal segments (caused by everyday stressors on the body including poor posture, repetitive trauma, or injury), an increasingly smaller motion stimulus will begin triggering an impulse in those nerve roots, leading to increased SNS activation aka Sympathetic Facilitation. When the SNS is activated, the PNS is inhibited, not allowing proper internal organ function. This can manifest into many common digestive disorders (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, heartburn, constipation, food allergies, etc). Because the nerve roots of the thoracic spine innervate most of our internal organs, those organs, too, become hypersensitive as a result. Think of a sensitive stomach, easily affected by only mild foods that don’t bother most people, as an example. Furthermore, these facilitated segments of the spine result in tenderness of the soft tissues surrounding the segments, increased local muscle tone, further lack of motion of the joints, and changes to the blood supply of the skin in the area. All of these “side-effects” just lead to a more uncomfortable, tight, stiff, sore, less healthy, and inefficient, you.
A chiropractic adjustment to the levels of sympathetic facilitation found in the thoracic spine works by introducing motion into those spinal segments that aren’t moving adequately, helping to inhibit the hypersensitivity reaction built up by that lack of motion. Adjusting the spine stimulates the mechanoreceptors in those particular joint spaces to override the SNS allowing the PNS to respond and allow adequate body function.
Starting down a road to health has to start here. Without a balanced nervous system, you are holding yourself back. Contact New-Start Health Center today at (812) 799-0668!