Suffering From Autonomic Nervous Disorders? A 13-Symptom Self-Assessment Helps You Find Out
Patients with dysautonomia often feel uncomfortable all over their bodies—they may have seen different doctors—but the test values are normal. What are the common symptoms of dysautonomia and how to diagnose it?
Dysautonomia is usually manifested by one or more physical and mental disorders:
- Sleep disorders.
- Sleep does not eliminate fatigue.
- Headache and dizziness.
- Stiff shoulders.
- Heart palpitations.
- Tight chest.
- Often wanting to take deep breaths.
- Stomach discomfort.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
- No energy or feeling tired easily.
- Frequent colds.
- Back pain.
- Rough skin.
- Dry hair.
- Cold hands and feet, with numbness and pain.
- Feeling stressed and tense.
- Unable to focus.
Where Is the Autonomic Nerve? What Does It Do?
Before explaining the function of the autonomic nerve, let’s first understand what nerves are.
Nerves are like a “pathway” for the brain to communicate information with various organs. All kinds of stimuli from inside and outside the body are information transmitted to the brain and organs through the nerves, which then cause multiple operations and responses.
Two main types of nerves transmit information: the “central nerve,” which extends from the brain to the spinal cord, and the “peripheral nerve,” which extends from the central nerve to every corner of the body.
The “peripheral nerves” are divided into the “somatic nervous system” and the “autonomic nervous system.”
The somatic nervous system consists of the sensory neurons, which transmit sensations, and the motor neurons, which control the muscles of the arms and legs. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for the functioning of the internal organs, blood flow, and other physiological functions that sustain life.
We cannot control the autonomic nerves at will. Everything from the heart sending blood throughout the body, breathing, digesting food, absorbing nutrients, sweating when it is hot, shivering when it is cold, and regulating body temperature is all done by the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nerves work 24 hours a day to maintain the body’s function.
The autonomic nervous system is on both sides of the spine and comprises sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. It regulates and supplies the body with the energy to activate its natural response to unexpected situations, stress, and exercise.
The sympathetic nervous system: Consider it as a gas pedal that allows us to be more alert and responsive when faced with external stress. When the sympathetic nerve is overactive, the parasympathetic nerve cannot function properly, and various diseases may occur.
The parasympathetic nervous system: Consider it as a brake that allows us to relax and store energy, lower our heart rate and blood pressure, and is more active than the sympathetic nerves when resting or sleeping. Although the parasympathetic nerves can boost immunity, they are also likely to cause allergy problems.
Since the body has two nervous systems with opposite functions, it can move and rest when necessary, maintaining a rhythmic physiological rhythm of physical tension and relaxation. This is what Chinese medicine calls “yin and yang balance.” If the autonomic nervous system continues to be dysfunctional, even if no abnormalities are detected now, organ pathologies may develop in the future, causing many diseases.
The Importance of Sleep
A high percentage of people with dysautonomia also suffer from sleep disorders. Is it important to improve sleep disorders to improve dysautonomia?
Sleep disturbance is the core symptom of dysautonomia. Sleep disturbance is both an early indicator of the occurrence of dysautonomia and an outcome assessment indicator for the treatment of dysautonomia.
Sleep can revitalize and neutralize overused tissues and organs, repair the physical and mental stress suffered in daily life, and helps us bounce back from setbacks. Therefore, sleep is a critical protective mechanism for the body.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that failure to get enough sleep may cause restlessness, a poor temperament, painful sensations in various body parts, poor daytime alertness, lethargy, accidents, or a low mood.
Chronic, persistent sleep disorders alone can trigger autonomic dysfunction.
Western medicine can significantly and efficiently improve the symptoms of poor sleep dependence upon it may develop, and side effects such as dizziness and sleepwalking may occur. Therefore, removing the environmental, behavioral, and psychological factors that affect sleep is critical.
Most people prone to sleep disorders are also prone to nervousness, anxiety, irritability, and an irregular lifestyle—and these people are most likely to have autonomic dysregulation. The ideal autonomic rhythm is one in which the sympathetic nerves operate at full speed during the day, and the parasympathetic nerves are active at night. If the body is still not wholly relaxed before getting to bed at night, leaving the body in a state of sympathetic excitement and parasympathetic depression, sleep is not good or even impossible.
We have clinically found that if we can improve the sleep state of patients with dysautonomia, most other symptoms of discomfort can be improved quickly.