Your Parasympathetic Nervous System
Really can Control Your Pain 
(If You Let It)

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is a major division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) with the others being the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the enteric nervous system. 

The autonomic nervous system works unconsciously to control your organ systems and muscles that seem to work automatically without you thinking about it. 

These three systems are in an ever-changing balance in response to your environment and the thoughts you are thinking. 






It is a Balancing Act

The PSNS and the SNS work together to allow your body to "rest and digest" during times of relaxation, and then during times of stress they work together to stimulate your "fight or flight" response. 


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Your Sympathetic Nervous System

Stressful situations and/or thinking stressful thoughts will stimulate your SNS and your parasympathetic system will be suppressed.

Excitatory neurotransmitters and stress hormones like cortisol will flood your body. You will sense things more sharply and your reactions will be quicker. 

And, any chronic pain you have will be sensed more strongly and  it will be felt more fully. Your pain will be worse. 

Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

Relaxing situations and/or thinking tranquil thoughts will stimulate your parasympathetic system and inhibit your SNS.

Your body will produce large amounts of inhibitory neurotransmitters and reduce your levels of stress hormones. Your heart rate and blood pressure will go down and your muscles will relax. 

And, any chronic pain that you have will be duller and less important. It will become only annoying like background noise. Your pain will be less.

The PSNS is the dominant system for "rest and digest".

The Parasympathetic Nervous System will:

• Increase Saliva Production

• Decrease Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

• Increase Gastric Juices in Your Stomach

• Speed Up Muscle Contractions in Your Intestines

• Increase Urine Formation by Your Kidneys

• Helps Control the Muscles that Control Urination and Defecation

Parasympathetic Nervous System and Chronic Pain

An important function of the parasympathetic nerves is to dull or suppress your response to outside stimulation, including chronic pain. Situations that allow the parasympathetic nerves to dominate will suppress the pain that you feel. 

When the sympathetic nervous system is energized you will feel things sharper and quicker, including pain.

Allow the Parasympathetic System to Dominate and Control Your Pain

Stimulate Your PSNS with:

          • Deep Breathing Exercises

          • Meditation

          • Think Positive Thoughts

          • Avoid Stressful Situations

Deep Breathing

Find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed.

Sit in a comfortable position and begin taking long slow breaths. Focus your mind and concentrate on your breathing and allow your body to relax.


Sitting comfortably begin relaxing each part of your body.

Meditation will stimulate your PSNS and suppress your sympathetic system


Image thanks to Karoly Czifra via Wikimedia Commons

Begin with your feet and toes, think about how they feel without making any good or bad judgments, just think about them and let them relax.

Then move up to your lower legs and think about them and on and on until your whole body is relaxed. 

Think Positive Thoughts

Tell yourself things are good. Be happy and feel joy. Focus on contentment and tranquility. Find good things in your life, write them down, and be thankful for them. 

Avoid Stressful Situations

Stressful situations will suppress your parasympathetic nervous system. They will stimulate your stress hormones and cause anxiety allowing your sympathetic nervous system to dominate. Your pain will be sharper and you will feel it more.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School Chronic Pain and Research Center teach these relaxation techniques to their patients.

Use Your Best Pain Management Tool

Your best pain management tool is your brain. Learn to use it to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and you can control your pain. 

Without drugs and without therapy, the only side effect is happiness.



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