Vagus Nerve Entrapment Causing Atrial Fibrillation with Tachycardia – Case Study

My theory: I have a Vagus Nerve Entrapment Causing Atrial Fibrillation with Tachycardia due to the reverse curve of my neck.

History:

I occasionally get A-fib with tachycardia – an irregular heartbeat with an increased heart rate. I believe these episodes are caused by a Vagus nerve entrapment. I started having episodes in my mid to late twenties. The medical diagnosis was that it was caused by a hyperactive thyroid. At the time, my entire metabolism was haywire. I was burning over 5000 calories a day at rest, not including exercise (measured through resting and active VO2 testing) and had lost over 20 pounds in less than two months. I would experience A-fib episodes that lasted 5-8 days (day and night).

Over the years, my thyroid has returned to normal function, but I continue to have A-fib episodes, although much briefer in duration (a few to less than 24 hours). I’ve seen endocrinologists and cardiologists. They don’t know the root cause and the only solutions they have been able to offer are either pharmaceutical drugs or surgery (ie pacemaker). I tried drugs. The side effects were untenable and I’m not willing to have invasive heart surgery when the doctors really don’t understand the cause of the condition. I’ve witnessed way too many people have these types of surgeries which either didn’t solve the “problem” and often made things worse.

These episodes are not comfortable. My nervous and cardiovascular systems are in a state of overload and stress. My heart is working 25-35% harder at everything I do. It basically feels like I’m running… when I’m sitting, lying down, and sleeping. Physiologically it feels like I’m having an anxiety or panic attack. Any kind of physical activity, such as climbing stairs or working out, immediately leaves me breathless and occasionally dizzy.

Reverse curve compared to posterior curveI also have a posterior or reverse curve to my cervical spine (as seen on x-rays). The cervical spine should have an anterior curve. This is a significant structural adaptation that has more than likely developed from my extensive injury history – concussions, whiplash injuries from multiple car and motorcycle accidents, knee surgeries, and many other injuries.

Vagus Nerve (a very rough overview)

The Vagus nerve (CN X) is a cranial nerve that is directly linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, playing a role in heart rate, respiration, and digestion. The Vagus nerve helps to down-regulate or slow down heart rate after the body goes through a sympathetic “fight or flight” response – ie the massive adrenaline rush after a scary situation. In our modern world, most of us are in a constant state of stress creating a low-level “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are constantly interacting with one another to maintain some semblance of homeostasis or balance.Vagus nerve

The Vagus nerve originates in the brainstem, traveling down through the neck (external to the spinal cord and spine). Since it travels outside the spinal cord, it is exposed to potential muscular, fascial, or structural entrapment.

My Theory

Due to the reverse curve in my neck, any kind of excess tension or restrictions in the muscle/fascia or vertebral position of the cervical region can occasionally entrap the Vagus nerve. If the Vagus nerve becomes entrapped, the electrical signals between the brain and heart (or respiratory and digestive systems) can become inhibited – ie experience some loss of signal. This loss of signal affects the balance between the conversation of sympathetic and parasympathetic related to heart rate and can cause heart rhythm irregularities. In my case, less signal to downregulate the heart rate which leads to an increased heart rate and arrhythmia.

Movement Session

Today, I am experiencing an episode of A-fib with tachycardia. There is also tension/restriction in my neck related to specific movement patterns. My focus of this session is to improve neck and spinal mobility through the combination of self-massage (using a Thera-cane and lacrosse ball) and Movement Therapy to free the Vagus nerve from entrapment. The past few times I’ve had an episode, this combination seemed to help resolve the arrhythmia pretty quickly.

When searching for the underlying root cause of a “problem”, it is easy to get into a game of the chicken or the egg. The “problem” is rarely ever found with just one simple solution. The human body is a complex system of complex systems. Each system is intricately connected to one another in a constant feedback loop. When one system isn’t working properly, it affects change and can cause other systems to stop working properly, which then feeds back into the larger system, wreaking havoc. This is just one theory that I am playing around with in my movement practice.

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big feels – a pome by Jesse James Retherford

My heart stirs.
The deeper I dive…
the older the wounds I find buried within.
My heart has been locked up tight…
Prison for a lifetime…
I don’t want to hold onto this any longer.

Movement is healing…
Movement is relief…
Movement pushes me deeper,
exposing older wounds. 

To move exposes pain,
I am forced to feel and left with the choice…
bury it, lock it up tighter, and stop movement…
or surrender…
dive deeper…
and free my Self.
I will always choose freedom over confinement.

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Degenerative Joint Disease of the Knee

According to scientific research studies, just the mere fact that I’ve had one reconstructive knee surgery (I’ve had three on the right knee alone), I am automatically placed in the “at risk” category for degenerative joint diseases of the knee such as arthritis (x-rays already show arthritis in my right knee), chondromalacia patellae, arthrochondritis, and a future knee or hip replacement. Having surgery alone is a risk factor, just as being over the age of 65 is also a risk factor. What is not considered a risk factor is the lack of a deep resting squat.

Many doctors (as well as quite a few physical therapists) have told me over the years that “once you’ve had just one knee surgery, you should never squat again.” Their fear and concern is that the shear forces which take place within the deep knee bend of the squat, damage the articular cartilage that protects the soft delicate structures within the joint space. This could exacerbate and speed up the process of degeneration.

I agree that this is a potential risk. And a very real risk. I take this risk very seriously considering that I will have to live with these joints for the rest of my life functional or not.

So why do I move the way I move?
More Epic with sound 😃

I disagree that squatting, or the types of movements I perform, will speed up the degenerative process. In fact, I believe the opposite. I believe these movements are vital to not only maintaining the precious joint surfaces I currently have, but they also repair and heal the joints slowing down the degenerative process.

In the 20+ years that I’ve been learning and teaching movement, I’ve seen a fair amount of degenerative knees and hips. In my estimation, not a single one of those hip joints degenerated because of a squat. A squat couldn’t cause degeneration, they hadn’t squatted in years. By my assessment, it is because they hadn’t squatted that caused the degeneration. Regular, adequate, challenging and pain-free movement is necessary for the long term health and function of your joints.

What equates to regular or adequate or challenging varies from person to person. If you are experiencing knee or hip pain and don’t know where to start, please feel free to schedule an in person or online consultation. I offer a free one-hour consultation (limited by availability) to anyone seeking guidance towards a natural movement practice and lifestyle.

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This is important… Movement

I cannot express the value and importance of this… as a starting point for developing a movement practice… This is important… Movement! A daily full body joint by joint check-in… assessment… preparation… recovery tool.

It doesn’t matter what else you do for movement… Yoga, Pilates, Crossfit, martial arts, parkour, MovNat, climbing, running, or even just sitting in front of the computer (yes that is a movement practice too). This is where you learn about you… how you move… why you move… your limitations, fears, anxieties, excitements, passions, and so much more.

You are a human mover… this is where it begins… You Must Move… every day… even just a little.

I didn’t feel well last night, canceled plans, and laid down in bed at 8p. I didn’t get up until 9a this morning… Thank god for an easy Saturday work day. Upon getting out of bed, my back and knees ached… which with my injury history is pretty normal. This daily practice is what keeps me moving at the capacity I do considering all the damage I have done to my body already in this life.
This is what keeps me alive… not in the life support kind of way… but in the engaged, mentally, intellectually, emotional, spiritual way. If I don’t move… at least a little bit every day… I feel a little piece of me dry up and die inside. Moving is living support.

My back feels better… My knees ache less… My heart is full… My mind engaged… How do you feel this morning???

This is important… Movement!

#movement #movewell#movemore #movementculture#movementlifestyle#movementismedicine #movementquality#yoga #crossfit #climbing #pilates#movnat #parkour #mobility#jointmobility #spine #spinalmobility #hip#hipmobility #knee #kneepain #backpain

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A Day of Playing – Checking in to Move Well

No school, no clients, no kid…

It’s a totally free and clear day. What am I going to do??? I am spending the day playing at Austin Boulding Project… checking in, writing, shooting videos, climbing, experiments with Instagram stories, and whatever else catches my fancy.

I’m extra excited… I replaced my 15-year-old climbing shoes which were falling apart with these @sportiva.climbing shoes.

Checking in - New shoes

 

When your day is devoted to playing… Where do you begin?

I begin by checking in.

I woke up with some minor aches at the medial right knee with walking and general right side low back tension/tightness/restriction. Considering the swelling in my knee from last week and an active day yesterday with mountain biking… I pretty much expected this. Nothing feels more inflamed or painful than usual… but I do want to check in with my body before pushing myself.

At austinboulderingproject, they have a nice fitness room setup with a floor movement section and massage tools. I love using the foam roller as a part of checking in with where I am holding tension in my body. Things I noticed during this 10-minute foam roller session… Right side calf tension and right side low back. I give an extra bit of love to these areas… not for release… not to fix anything… but more to just bring blood flow and attention to how I’m moving through these areas of my body. This section of the video is only sped up by 2 to show how slow and soft I am on the foam roller.

Also, considering I will probably be climbing a fair amount, I make sure to roll out my forearms… just enough to bring blood flow.

Checking in continued… hip to spine mobility

After foam rolling, I am checking in with full body joint by joint mobility. This is an exploration of how all the pieces are playing with the whole.

I generally begin with my hips… moving through shin box to pigeon. I am noticing the tightness of my right nip in external rotation and its relationship to the right low back tension/tightness/restrictions… and play with this a bit… feeling… can these two individual parts connect… can they play well together. It is an easing and opening into movement.

This video is only sped up 2x… I’m hoping the slowness of the movement can be seen.

Checking in Continued… fingers, wrists, and forearms

Since I’m just getting back into climbing after a long layoff and I have a history of shoulder and elbow issues (seven months of elbow tendonitis last year), my fingers and forearms are a huge weak link. I want to develop a healthy climbing practice that will last me the rest of my life…

This is simple joint mobility work for the fingers, wrists, and forearms. Again, I’m checking in to make sure everything works. After climbing last week, I’ve noticed some minor joint compression in my right third and fourth fingers at the DIP and PIP joints. It’s not enough to cause worry… but enough to let me know these areas need my attention.

This video is sped up by 2.

Checking in Continued… Spine

How do I find the movements of gait when my gait exhibits dysfunction?

My low back is sore… tight… achy… especially the right side low back. This is the norm. Since the most recent knee surgery, I don’t express my gait pattern fully through my left knee. This means I also don’t express my gait pattern fully through the right side lumbar and thoracic spine (as well as other places). This means my gait is a dysfunctional movement pattern.

These are some of my core work for segmental three-dimensional movements through my spine. This is what keeps me active. When I don’t do this… I hurt… I hurt bad. I used to have such bad back pain that I would be laid up for weeks from a single episode. These types of movements… every day… keeps the pain away from the 7’s, 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s out of ten… and more around 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s.

This video is sped up 6x. I am moving slowly… feeling each segment of my spine moving in all three planes of motion.

Checking in continued… toes, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder, and spine…

Checking in… feeling into my structure… taking the toes, ankles, knees and hips, shoulders, and spine joints through some loading patterns… checking in to feeling… is there pain? Stiffness? Restriction?

I noticed the left knee to foot feels a bit disconnected in the squat variations and in the tripod with rotation when loaded on the right shoulder … something I will keep focus on throughout the day.

My body feels much improved from the stiffness and achiness of this morning. I’m still noticing a little knee tenderness… I don’t want to aggravate this… so I’ll continue to check in with it throughout the day.
Now… it’s time to climb

One more before I go climb. I’ve been sitting writing up my movement series for a while.

Just because I am sitting… doesn’t mean I’m not moving. Even as I sit… I express movement… feeling my back, neck, breathing, shoulders… stagnation is a sign of death. I am alive… and movement is my expression of life.

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Movement Calibration and Reset – Jul 9

I finished the first summer semester of Physics with an A. I’ve decided to take the rest of summer off from school so I can focus on some business ideas, movement, and most importantly… myself.

My mom was in town last week. It was a really good visit… and a challenging week overall. Anyone who knows my history… understands that these visits are ripe and fruitful for introspection and big feelings. This visit, combined with parenting and relationship challenges, was not a disappointment.

Whenever I get into the big feels, it is easy to take the focus away from other aspects of myself… breathing, meditating, journaling, and moving my body. When this happens I tend to feel stuck. The practice of moving internally and externally is so important to keeping the emotional energy flowing. When this happens I need to recalibrate. Today is restoring focus on moving, feeling, flowing, surrendering, and just being. It opens me up to trust and gratitude… and that I am right where I need to be.

My heart stirs.
The deeper I dive…
the older the wounds I find buried within.
My heart has been locked up tight…
Prison for a lifetime…
I don’t want to hold onto this any longer.

Movement is healing…
Movement is relief…
Movement pushes me deeper,
exposing older wounds.

To move exposes pain,
I am forced to feel and left with the choice…
bury it, lock it up tighter, and stop movement…
or surrender…
dive deeper…
and free my Self.
I will always choose freedom over confinement.

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Neck Pain Self Care Using Thera-cane

In this video, I demonstrate how to use self-massage to work out tightness/restriction in the neck using a combination of movement assessment and a Thera-cane.

In the short time since making the video, my neck has improved. There was still a niggle of tightness at the base of the right side occipitals that I missed while filming. Probably due to being a bit rushed. I have since used the Thera-cane on that spot and my neck feels much improved.

I hope you find this video helpful. Below is a link for the Thera-cane. Please leave a comment if you have a question about this video or suggestions for a future demonstration.

Link to Thera-Cane on AmazonNeck Pain Self Care Using Thera-cane

This is an Amazon affiliate link. I am sharing for two reasons 1) because I love the product and 2) If you make a purchase after clicking it, I will get a commission. This is a great way to help support The Art of Fitness. Thank you for your support.

Neck Discomfort Self Care Using Thera-cane

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Tight and Achy Right Hip and Low Back – July 2, 2018

My right hip and right side low back are achy. The anterior compartment of my right hip feels compressed with tight passive and active range of motion. I feel it all the way down to the lateral compartment of my right foot and up into my right side low back (multifidi, quadratus lumborum, psoas region. It has been building up over the course of a few weeks. I’ve been so Go! Go! Go! with school lately, that I haven’t taken the proper time to work on it. I’ve been moving quite a bit lately, however with less focus on restorative/explorative movement. Tonight is time to put in that focus.

I felt some specific spots of restriction on both sides of my neck and right forearm as I was moving, so I did some self-massage using hands and went back to challenge the movements. The restrictions eased up and my neck and forearm moved easier. I love how my body can tell me the exact spots to work on.

Movement Session

I went into this session with no preconceived idea of what it would look like. Instead, I simply followed what my body presented. My good friend and brilliant movement teacher, Melody Benton – Instagram: Movement Goddess sent me the video below posted by Abby Corriveau – Instagram: Feminine Badass.

In the video, Abby is instructing how to sit both hips to the ground in the “shin box” position using a tool. I cannot place both hips to the ground in this position. I’ve been questioning whether this is a good goal position to pursue both for my clients and myself. My concern is that pushing positions or stretches have the potential to create instability in the system… specifically through ligament laxity. It’s a concern, but I haven’t really formulated a firm opinion  Considering how tight my hips have been, I decided to give this a try tonight.

I noticed a pretty good difference in hip mobility; specific to the shin box position. I wasn’t able to sit both hips to the floor, but I felt closer. I’m not sold on whether having access to this hip mobility is good for my body in the long haul, but will definitely add it in over the next few weeks to feel how it may potentially benefit my body.

This is an Amazon affiliate link. Thank you for supporting TAO-Fit.

I installed a rock climbing board today. I recently went to Crux climbing gym in south Austin. I haven’t climbed in years. I instantly remembered how much I love rock climbing.  I very quickly found a bunch of weakness in my climbing. Before I even made it home from the gym, I decided to add it into my home training. The next day I picked ordered the Metolius Simulator 3D wall mounted training board (Amazon affiliate link). I will be slowly adding more climbing tools to the wall.

Tonight, I worked a little on finger grip (huge weakness). I would have done more, but during the install process,  I burned two of my fingertips today and didn’t want to aggravate the blisters it too much. Overall, the session felt great.

 

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Post Camping Movement Calibration and Self Massage – Apr 1 – 4x speed

I went camping over the weekend at a lovely property east of Austin along the river. I spent most of two days completely barefoot, exploring grass, rock, and soft sticky dirt. I slept on a Thai massage mat, which is significantly firmer than my bed at home. It made of a rough sleeping experience simply because my body isn’t conditioned to it. I was expecting to wake up in pain. Surprisingly, my body felt pretty good overall. The only discomfort was the soreness in my legs from playing on the slackline the previous day.

I did feel physically tired. Sleeping in a different environment meant that I didn’t get as much deep sleep as normal. With a 6 am appointment on Monday, I was feeling the need for recovery.

In this session, I explore the edges of my movement joint by joint with a good bit of focus on wringing out my spine. My lower back was a bit stiff and the extra spinal mobility movements really helped. I finished with some full body self-massage using the foam roller.

I woke up Monday morning tired, but not exhausted. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. Now to reintegrate back into life again.

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Knee and Neck Therapy Movement Flow – Mar 22 – 4x speed

My movement practice connects me to my body, but more importantly, it connects me to my Self… my heart, the very feeling being of me.

Why is it that when I feel most closed off internally to my heart, I am most likely to be lazy with my movement practice? The human body is a giant sensory organ. We are made to feel… to feel the full spectrum of what it means to be a human… externally (physical world) and internally (emotional world). It’s ok to feel deeply sometimes… even when it hurts. It’s a sign that I am real, authentic, and healthy.

This week I’ve had a huge emotional process. Lots of feelings swirling from just the simple daily adulting of life. It has also been a week with too little movement. When I don’t move my body enough, it is a sign that I am not feeling the depths of my heart enough. I tend to hold emotional tension and stress both physically and emotionally. By the end of a week, it can feel like I’m carrying an extra load on my shoulders. I’ve got enough on my plate… I don’t need to carry anything that doesn’t serve me.

Tonight’s movement session helped with a bit of a reset. My knee has actually been feeling better the past couple days. It’s almost as if the pop I felt last week was beneficial. My theory is that I had a cyst forming in the medial capsule from the surgery and the pop was the cyst being squeezed out and reabsorbed by my body. I’m guessing there is still some cyst (or whatever it is in the joint space). The knee still feels unstable at full extension. I can balance on the 2×4 and 2-inch bar, but I don’t dare get on the slackline yet. I’ve also had a bit of left side neck tension. Probably a secondary issue due to gait issues related to the knee pain.

In this session, I focused on rehab for the knee and neck, which really meant moving joint by joint through the entire body with a focus on the feet, knees, hips, spine, and breath. At the same time, I felt deeply into my heart. I allowed all the feelings from the week to move. I allowed myself to feel, surrender, and let go… As if someone was physically taking a weight off my shoulder. There is still more underneath, but it feels good being a little lighter for the moment.

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