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Ten tVNS Tips

Written by, vagabond on September 17, 2020
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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.

Skin contact

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.

7) Never pull the clip off during stimulation.

Doing so could be very uncomfortable. It’s best to stop the session by pressing the button on the device before removing the clip.

8) 15 minutes is only a target.

Don’t stress if you don’t do the whole session. Many scientists currently recommend 15 minutes a day, but you can build up to this and you don’t have to do it all in one session. However, many people find stimulation works best if they allow themselves the full time to sit and relax during the stimulation session.

9) Side effects.

Thousands of scientific studies indicate that side effects are very rare, but not unknown. The most commonly noted side effects are actually skin reactions - these are typically classified as mild side effects and include tingling, pins and needles or some other skin discomfort; or warmth and redness on the skin at or around the point of stimulation. Side effects which are considered more serious are related to the actual stimulation of the vagus nerve. As the vagus nerve is also involved in a range of bodily functions, these more severe side effects can be very broad, including: indigestion, nausea, feelings of disorientation, changes in your hearing, neck stiffness or pains, or feelings of changes to the rhythm of your heart. These are nothing to be immediately alarmed about as even such rare occurrences have never been documented as long lasting. If you do experience any uncomfortable/severe side effects, you should stop the session, leave it for a few hours, or even a day or two and try again. If some of these more severe side effects persist, you may be one of a small percentage of people (around 1%) who do not tolerate tVNS well, and you should return the device for a full refund. We give a 30 day refund policy to allow plenty of time to find out if you are able to tolerate tVNS well or not.

10) Desired effects.

Vagus nerve strength (or tone) is known to correlate well with many long term health outcomes; in other words, the benefits of stimulation accrue gradually over time. Some of the benefits may be in terms of preventing or reducing the negative, natural and common effects of ageing. Shorter term benefits will be felt over a few weeks, and some very short term benefits may be measurable sooner. For example, straight after a session, blood pressure often falls and heart rate variability increases. These benefits may fluctuate with each session, but you should see an improving trend over time. It’s a good idea to keep track of these biomarkers (blood pressure and heart rate variability) if you can. Studies have shown that such benefits show measurable improvements within a few weeks. You may also feel other positive effects more immediately, such as a feeling of relaxation and wellness. Such effects are harder to measure precisely, but are often reported by users. Because of the subjectivity of such reports, these are hard to quantify. It may well be that positive effects reported by some people are the same effects that are reported as negative by others. Let your own feelings be your guide. Take things gradually and give it some time.

If you have any issues, we’re always here to help. Reach out to us on facebook or email.

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