Phrenic Nerve vs Vagus Nerve: What Are the Differences?
Right now you are using both your vagus and phrenic nerves. Your diaphragm is expanding to let your lungs take in a breath and you are actively breathing. Both of these activities correlate to the phrenic and vagus nerves.
Think you know everything about the two most important thoracic nerves in the human body?
Read more below to see how much you really know.
Similarities Between Vagus Nerves and Phrenic Nerves
Before we point out the differences between the nerves, let’s point out the similarities.
Both vagus and phrenic nerves are thoracic nerves and are similar in location. They start at the neck and move through the diaphragm.
Vagus and phrenic nerves both have designated right and left sides. They are both mixed nerves, meaning they both control motor and sensory functions in the human body.
Phrenic Nerve vs. Vagus Nerve
What is the phrenic nerve? The phrenic nerve spans from the spinal cord to the diaphragm. It is made up of a right side and left side nerves that relate directly to the respective sides of the diaphragm.
When the phrenic nerve is working properly, it tells the diaphragm to expand. This lets the lungs inhale. Once the breath is complete, the lungs release the air and allow the diaphragm to settle back down.
In addition to working with the diaphragm, the phrenic nerve also works with the pericardium, peritoneum, and the Mediastina pleura.
What is the vagus nerve? The vagus nerve is the longest of all the cranial nerves, it runs from the brain stem to the colon. The major functions of this nerve are responsible for breathing, swallowing, relieving anxiety, and lowering heart rate, controlling mood and taste.
The vagus nerve is a huge influencer of the immune system. The nerve notices specific responses within the immune system and digestive system and makes important notes about the body. This is why the vagus nerve is studied to treat digestive issues.
The vagus nerve communicates functions between the heart, gut, and brain marking itself as part of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Phrenic Nerve Complications
This is the only nerve that communicates with the diaphragm. Meaning if this nerve is damaged or injured, you should seek medical assistance immediately.
There are some issues that can cause a phrenic nerve injury or paralyzed diaphragm. These include surgical issues, trauma, and spinal injuries. If you have a persistent issue with hiccups, you should take note.
Today, the most effective treatments for phrenic nerve injuries are physical therapy and a diaphragm pacing system.
Vagus Nerve Complications
Since the vagus nerve is responsible for so many functions within the body, scientists discovered that stimulating it can be a way to treat issues that arise when it is not working properly.
There are a few ways to reach the vagus nerve, externally and internally, but one of the easiest ways is through the ear. Auricular vagus nerve stimulation uses low electric currents to reach your brain and treat Major Depressive Disorder.
Phrenic and Vagus
Phrenic nerves vs. vagus nerves both serve to keep the human body alive. They both function in keeping humans breathing and they both are near each other physiologically.
If you run into any issues with either your phrenic or vagus nerves, there are treatment options, specifically auricular vagus nerve stimulation for the vagus nerve and physical therapy for the phrenic nerve.