So you’ve received your kit and you’re excited about trying out your first session.
Getting started is very easy. Instructions are on screen and on the included card.
There is no one right way to do vagus nerve stimulation. As with everything, try things out to see what works best for you. Here are 10 tips and pointers to help you get the most out of your tVNS device:
1) You don't have to use the paste
Many people prefer not to. It’s a matter of choice. You can use the clip dry or with a little saline solution (salty water)
2) Make sure your skin is clean.
Skin is a living organ. It excretes a variety of fluids from salty sweat to lubricants and oils; and it picks up layers of dirt throughout the day. Your ears also contain waxes that can end up on the outer parts of the ear. And even the soaps and skin care products we use can leave a residue on the skin.
All of this can change the way you experience the stimulation session. The best thing to do is take a wet wipe, or simply some water on your thumb and finger and rub your tragus clean before you begin a session.
3) Attach the electrodes firmly.
It’s best to attach the electrodes as deeply onto your tragus as you can. You can either loop the wire over your ear or, even better, loop it over your right shoulder and run it behind your neck and then onto your left ear. Leave just enough length free to attach the clip at a comfortable angle. The weight of the wire is then either on your ear or on your shoulders and prevents the clip from dislodging during the session. This can be fiddly to begin with, but with practice, you’ll find it easy.
4) You may feel nothing at all.
Or, you may feel significant discomfort, such as pins and needles, which some people may find hard to tolerate. How people experience the stimulation varies greatly. Scientists don’t completely understand why this is, but it may be due to a number of reasons including your skin type and any residues that might be on the surface of your skin. Whatever the cause, the sensation you feel is because nerves in your skin are also triggered by the electrical current, which must pass through your skin to reach your vagus nerve. If you find the sensation hard to tolerate, try using the paste, or turning down the intensity. If, on the other hand, you feel nothing at all, you’re one of the lucky ones! In scientific studies, it is common to lower the stimulation level until the subject can barely notice the stimulation is active.
5) If it looks like it’s working, it probably is.
If the device is attached properly and showing a current, then the current will be flowing through your vagus nerve. If the electrodes cannot make good contact, the device will indicate this -- in which case, you should refer to tips 1-3 above. If the device shows current is flowing, read on.
6) The longer you use the device, the less you will feel.
This is because the nerves in your skin are designed to adapt and ignore sensations that last consistently over time. The nerve cells in your skin are designed to notice change and are more sensitive to new sensations. As you become accustomed to the sensation of stimulation, you will find it more tolerable until eventually you may barely notice it.