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The Internal Wiring

There are five major internal factors that contribute to the activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System. Understanding what each of these five factors are and how they contribute to sympathetic dominance is important in finding out what measures are most effective in relieving this syndrome.

The Five Factors

Mesencephalic Reticular Formation (The Catalyst)

The Mesencephalic Reticular Formation (MRF) is the primary activator of the Sympathetic Dominance. It assesses the situation you’re in and if it senses danger (real or perceived) triggers the Fight or Flight response (Sympathetic Nervous System). This process also activates the adrenal system and fires up and releases cortisol, a stress hormone. As if this is not bad enough, this process will steal building blocks from good hormones. This process is frequently called Pregnenolone Steal Syndrome. See this article for more information:

Red Nucleus (Movement & Posture)

Good Versus Bad Posture

The Red Nucleus is responsible for the physical response to the Sympathetic Nervous System activation. This is where you can see the effects of sympathetic dominance in the bodies structure.

Fight – shoulders tense round forward, ready to fight

Flight – calf muscles, hamstrings, achilles tendon tighten, ready to run

The head also moves forward putting an extra load on the upper back. Being in a prolonged state of sympathetic dominance can lead to anterior head syndrome. Where the head is shifted forward over the shoulders and spine, which puts allot of stress on the human frame and can lead to decreased rib expansion and oxygenation of lung tissues during each breath. So when you see someones head over your spine, know that they are breathing less efficiently.

To look more into the effects of poor posture on mental see this article:

Superior Colliculus (Vision)

The Superior Colliculus is responsible for sharpened vision in the alert state. The pupils dilate because you need to see more than usual, to spot where the danger is coming from. Being in a prolonged state of sympathetic dominance can lead to light sensitivity and headaches. Because the pupils are enlarged constantly more light will enter the retina causing perceived sensitivity to light.

Inferior Colliculus (Hearing)

The Inferior Colliculus is responsible for sharpened hearing. This helps you to hear better than usual, and find where the threat is coming from. Being in a prolonged state of sympathetic dominance can lead to sound sensitivity and headaches. So if you are having issues with sound sensitivity this in an area that needs to be addressed.

Edinger Westphal Nucleus
(Prolonged Sympathetic State)

The Edigner Westphal Nucleus (EWN) is a good indicator of a prolonged sympathetic dominance. This portion of the brain acts as a check and balance to dilated pupils (Superior Colliculus) by controlling the constriction of eye pupils. When in the sympathetic state the EWN is constantly being driven to constrict the dilated pupils and eventually takes over. As a result pupils are generally small indicating sympathetic dominance.

Note: Checking for EWN effects should be done in low light environments not normal light environments as pupils respond to light by getting smaller.

The five mechanisms of sympathetic dominance are discussed in short detail here and while they may seem to be small or insignificant alone, they are powerful when combined and can lead to a myriad of health issues not addressed by other practitioners. Neurological trained chiropractors can determine if and or how they are playing a role in your condition and lay out a comprehensive plan to help improve your health.

Dr. Joe Adams is neurological trained chiropractor at Calibration Chiropractic, based in Mansfield, TX. He works with those who are looking for a customized & comprehensive approach to care.

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