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Heart Rate Variability — The Most Important Diagnostic Test You’ve Never Heard Of

One of the major themes emerg­ing in 21st cen­tury med­i­cine is the mas­ter role your brain plays in health.

Each week we learn more about the intri­cate ways the brain inte­grates data about the immune, endocrine, and chem­i­cal bal­ance of your body.  And the sig­nals it sends out to mod­ify the activ­ity of your heart, lungs, liver, kid­neys, small intes­tine, and all the rest.

Because of the cen­tral role the ner­vous sys­tem plays, your state of health depends on the sig­nals that flow into and out from the brain via the periph­eral nerves.  That’s why the diag­nos­tic tests that doc­tors of chi­ro­prac­tic per­form have a dual pur­pose: they chart your pain and body move­ment prob­lems while also check­ing brain func­tion.

How Your Doc­tor of Chi­ro­prac­tic Tests Your Brain

  • A mus­cle strength test gauges the integrity of the mus­cle and ten­don fibers.  But it also tests how adeptly your brain can sig­nal the mus­cle to fire.
  • Since the brain coor­di­nates posi­tional feed­back from the spine, arms, and legs, an exam­i­na­tion of the motion and align­ment of these joints is also a test for brain and nerve function.
  • Check­ing for painful spots can reveal the tight zones in your mus­cles and ten­dons, while at the same time it shows if there’s height­ened vig­i­lance or irri­tabil­ity of the nerves that serve the area.

Somatic vs. Auto­nomic Nerves

These impor­tant diag­nos­tic tests pin­point prob­lems in one major branch of the ner­vous sys­tem – the somatic nerves.  These are the nerves that reg­u­late pos­ture and move­ment – all the vol­un­tary functions.

But there’s a sec­ond impor­tant branch of the ner­vous sys­tem that con­trols the invol­un­tary func­tions of the inter­nal organs – the auto­nomic nerves.  The auto­nomic nerves are trick­ier to test.

But doc­tors now have a test for the auto­nomic nerves too – heart rate variability.

Why Your Heart is Not a Pre­ci­sion Timepiece

A steady heart beat has long been con­sid­ered a hall­mark of health.

And that’s true up to a point.  You don’t want your heart rate drop­ping sud­denly, or speed­ing up madly because of an elec­tri­cal con­duc­tion abnor­mal­ity of the car­diac mus­cle such as atrial fibrillation.

But on a moment to moment basis, and through­out the day, a healthy heart adapts to changes in your activ­ity level, your men­tal and emo­tional state, your pos­ture, your state of wake­ful­ness, how hard your intestines are work­ing to digest your food, and a mil­lion other influences.

In fact, car­di­ol­o­gists can pre­dict the like­li­hood of sur­vival after a heart attack by mea­sur­ing heart rate vari­abil­ity — HRV.  If a patient’s HRV is low, they’re at high risk.

A Win­dow Into Your Auto­nomic Ner­vous System

But mea­sur­ing heart rate vari­abil­ity gives insight into lots more than just sur­viv­ing a heart attack.  That’s because it’s the auto­nomic ner­vous sys­tem that car­ries the sig­nals that tell the heart how to adjust.  So if your HRV is low, that means you have an imbal­ance or block­age of your auto­nomic ner­vous system.

And if there’s an imbal­ance of your auto­nomic nerves, more than your heart is at risk.  You’re sys­tem becomes less adept at reg­u­lat­ing the action of all your inter­nal organs.

That’s why test­ing heart rate vari­abil­ity is the best diag­nos­tic tool to mea­sure this impor­tant aspect of your over­all health.

 

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Neu­ro­Tac­tile ™ Ther­apy and the auto­nomic ner­vous system

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