Learn about transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS)

Updated: November 6th 2021

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

What is tVNS?

Vagus nerve stimulation is a method used to boost a weak or under-active vagus nerve. It can be said to describe any technique that stimulates the vagus nerve. However our expertise and this article is about electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve.

Electrical stimulation involves a targeted micro-current being applied to the nerve. Electrical impulses pass through the vagus nerve and supplement the nerves natural response.

The frequency and intensity of the electrical impulse varies. This allows different stimulation protocols to target different vagal functions.

Because the electrical impules reach the brain, Vagus Nerve Stimulation is considered a type of neuromodulation.

How does stimulation work?

A battery operated device generates an electrical signal that is connected through the nerve via electrodes. 

The device sends regular mild pulses of electricity into the nerve.

The process is imperceptible and there is no sensation from the vagus nerve itself*.

Since the nerve is connected to so many organs this electrical signal can have far reaching effects.

tVNS Stimulation
Figure 1. Illustration showing Vagus Nerve Stimulation pathways.

Why Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) was first used in the 90's as a treatment for epilepsy.

Early VNS involved an implanted device directly attached to the vagus nerve.

This device sent electrical signals to the vagus nerve in a similar way to a pacemaker sending electrical signals to the heart.

Implanted VNS
Figure 2. Illustration showing implanted Vagus Nerve Stimulator

Conditions treated by Vagus Nerve Stimulation

To date VNS has been approved for the treatment of two separate medical conditions

  • drug resistant Epilepsy
  • drug resistant Depression

It has also been shown to help several other conditions including

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Headaches
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Obesity

However these are not yet medically approved  uses of implanted VNS.

Internal vs External Stimulation

Following the success of implanted vagus nerve stimulators researchers began exploring external stimulation options. 

Implanting a stimulator carries with it the inherit risk of surgery. So if a suitable external method of stimulation could be found it would reduce the overall risks involved.


External Stimulation Locations

Two possible locations for external vagus nerve stimulation were quickly identified:

  • the neck
  • the ear


tVNS Summary

Because the vagus nerve is the primary mode by which the body relaxes and recuperates, its stimulation has restorative and healing effects on health and wellbeing.

  • Promote Digestion and Restorative Functions
  • Reduce "Fight-or-Flight" Response
  • Strengthen the Immune System
  • Balance Parasympathetic Nervous System
Easy to Use
tVNS is a very easy technology to incorporate into your daily routine. It requires no preparation and is easy to setup - simply clip to your ear.
Stimulating your vagus nerve increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. This restores bodily homeostasis (nervous system balance), improving health, strength and wellbeing.
14 Days
With just 15 minutes per day of stimulation you should feel results after two weeks. If you do not, use the 45 day guarantee to return for a full refund.

tVNS for Medical Conditions

If you have medical conditions requiring treatment you should consult with your doctor or physician.

  • Should not be used for Depression
  • Should not be used for Epilepsy
  • Unsuitable for treatment of any medical condition

tVNS is only available to promote general wellness in healthy adults seeking to rebalance their autonomic nervous system.


The tVNS Stimulator

Learn about our tVNS Device

Vagus Nerve Stimulation FAQs

How long should I stimulate for?
We recommend 15 mins per day. This follows some of the latest research that aims for the ideal balance between time commitment and efficacy.However, many studies have shown that longer periods of stimulation (45 mins) can in some circumstances be more beneficial to some people. If you feel you may benefit from longer daily stimulation, the vagus.net simulator can be used in multiple consecutive sessions.
What is the difference between tVNS and VNS?
The "t" stands for transcutaneous meaning through the skin and this is the key difference. VNS devices are implanted inside the body whereas tVNS devices are not, because they operate through the skin.
How does tVNS work?
tVNS works by passing a small electrical micro-current through a part of the ear so that it activates the Vagus nerve.
What is Vagus Nerve Stimulation Used For?
Vagus Nerve Stimulation has been used to treat epilepsy and depression with implanted stimulators.
Can tVNS Help with Migraines?
Yes. possibly, but actual results may be dependent on the individual and may vary.
Where is the Vagus Nerve Stimulated?
Tthe easiest location to stimulate the Vagus Nerve happens to be in the ear.  Specifically the tragus of the left ear.
What are the known side-effects of tVNS?
Reported side-effects are minimal and include skin irritation or redness under the electrode.
Can I Wear a Hearing Aid When Using tVNS
You should remove your hearing aid before using tVNS. If you have an implanted hearing device then you should not use tVNS.
Is tVNS Painful?
No, tVNS does not have to be painful. You are in control of the stimulation level and should set it to a comfortable level.
Does this help relieve tinnitus?
Yes, there is some early data showing that tVNS can reduce the severity of tinnitus.
Frequency of use - can I use more than 15 minutes per day?
I can't feel anything?
When using the device with the supplied conductive paste, you may feel very little or nothing at all from the stimulation. This is perfectly normal.
What does tVNS feel like?
It feels like a little tingle on your ear. Some people say it is like a tickle, some like a peck.
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