The Autonomic Nervous System and the regulation of health

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

autonomic nervous system

If you’ve read any of these blogs by now you’ll know that Upper Cervical Chiropractic is inherently focused on the maintenance of the integrity of the spine as it has a vital role in protecting the central nervous system. But what are we talking about when we say ‘nervous system’, what does it really do and why is that important for health?

In short, the nervous system does… everything.

Think of a function that your body must perform, it could be regulation of breathing or heart rate, digestion; immune system regulation, muscle contraction, sensing the world around you via sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Without your nervous system none of these functions could take place or be effectively coordinated.

The nervous system is composed of different divisions working together to keep your body functioning. First of all we have the central nervous system comprising the brain and the spinal cord, this is protected by the skull and the spinal column, made up of twenty four movable segments called vertebrae. From this central structure we have branches coming of which we call the peripheral nervous system. These nerves exit from small gaps between the vertebrae and carry information to every cell, tissue, and organ in the body.

Different nerves have different jobs, some gather information and relay it back to the brain; others send information from the brain back to the appropriate cells to initiate the required action. Some of these nerves are under conscious control and others are not. The nerves that activate voluntary muscle movement respond to conscious control, and others that control functions such as digestion do not require thought. These involuntary nerves are vital for the maintenance of health and keep you alive. We call this part of the nervous system the autonomic nervous system.



The autonomic nervous system is primarily controlled from a part of the brain called the brainstem. In evolutionary terms this is the oldest part of the brain, as it regulates all function that keeps us alive and is not responsible for higher level conscious thought. Damage to the brainstem can have serious negative consequences on health.

The brainstem is located at the base of the skull between the occipital bone and the top vertebrae of the spine. The brainstem bridges the gap between the brain and the spinal cord. Every nerve fibre passes through the brainstem on its way down the spinal cord towards its destination tissue. The health of the brainstem is integral to whole body health.

The spinal cord and base of the brainstem are tethered to the top vertebra in the neck, C1. If this bone misaligns underneath the skull it can place undue strain on these vital structures of the nervous system. This results in dysfunction and incoordination within the nervous system which over time if left unchecked will affect the tissues in the body supplied by those nerves. This may remain asymptomatic for a long while, and other times symptoms appear quickly; you can read about this in other blogs on this page. The job of the upper cervical chiropractor is to locate and analyse this issue and put an appropriate plan in place to get it corrected. If you think this might be right for you then book a call   with one of our chiropractors today and we can discuss a plan of action.

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