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  • Writer's pictureArianne Gosselin

Having a Hard Time Swallowing?

The initial act of swallowing is voluntary, but once the food is pushed back far enough, conscious control of what happens next is lost. This is why, when food gets stuck in your esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach) you can’t force it down. That job is up to a specific set of cranial nerves.

The glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves (also known as cranial nerves 9 and 10) are the two main nerves involved in sending information about swallowing up to the brainstem, with smaller contributions coming from cranial nerves 5 and 7. Once these nerves make their way to the brainstem, a preprogrammed response travels back down to the many muscles involved in swallowing, telling them to contract.

Knowing this, we can better appreciate how any changes in the quality of nerve transmission through these cranial nerves can have a massive impact on swallowing. Luckily, it is possible to affect the quality of nerve transmission through osteopathic manual manipulations.

How is that? Cranial nerves 9 and 10 are very close to the bones and muscles in the neck. This means that a crooked neck can have a huge impact on the cranial nerves that pass through that area. By ensuring that each vertebrae (spinal bone) is in its proper position and that the length and tone of the neck muscles are normal, we are ensuring healthy blood and nerve supply to the key structures involved in swallowing. This is how osteopathy can help issues with swallowing, and allow you to regain your quality of life.

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