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Where does the sympathetic innervation of the heart have its origins?

Cord segments T1-5(6)
Synapses occur in the upper thoracic and/or cervical chain ganglia
Sympathetic fibers to the heart do have a right- and left-sided distribution
Right sided fibers pass to the right deep cardiac plexus - innervate the right heart and sinoatrial (SA) node
Left sided fibers pass to left deep cardiac plexus – innervate left heart and atrioventricular (AV node)


What is the result of hypersympathetic activity (tone) to the right side of the heart (SA node)?

Supraventricular tachyarrhythmias
Sinus tachycardia
Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)


What is the result of hypersympathetic activity (tone) to the left side of the heart (AV node)?

Ectopic foci
Ventricular tachycardia
Ventricular fibrillation


What type of somatic dysfunction can increase sympathetic activity (tone) to the heart?

Upper thoracic dysfunction (especially extended segments)
Upper rib dysfunction, many times associated with upper thoracic dysfunction
Cervical dysfunction – affecting the superior, middle and inferior cervical ganglia


Where does the parasympathetic innervation of the heart have its origins?

Vagus nerves (cranial nerve 10)
Also have ipsilateral distribution
Right vagus – innervates the sinoatrial (SA) node
Left vagus – innervates atrioventricular (AV) node


What is the result of hyperparasympathetic activity (tone) to the right side of the heart (SA node)?

Sinus Bradycardia


What is the result of hyperparasympathetic activity (tone) to the left side of the heart (AV node)?

AV Blocks


What is the course of the vagus nerve (cranial nerve 10)?

Originates on the medulla
Exits the skull via the jugular foramen between the occipital and temporal bones
Has connections with the first 2 cervical somatic nerves
Enters the chest via the thoracic inlet


What types of somatic dysfunction can affect the vagus nerves?

Occipitomastoid compression affecting the jugular foramen
Occiput, atlas and axis (upper cervical spine)
Thoracic inlet
- Upper thoracics
- Upper ribs
- Clavicles
- Lower cervicals
- Cervical fascia
- ECT.



Lymphatic drainage from heart and lungs primarily carried back to the heart via the right lymphatic duct
Courses through the thoracic inlet on the way back into the heart
Driven by synchronized diaphragmatic function and muscle activity – overall body movement

OMM, in dog studies, can improve lymphatic flow by 4-5 times
Exercise can improve lymphatic flow by 30+ times
We can combine both for the benefit of the patient


What are some areas of somatic dysfunction that can negatively affect lymphatic flow?

Thoracic inlet
Respiratory diaphragm
- Lower thoracics
- Lower ribs
- Upper lumbars (psoas major muscle)


Reflexes and cardio

Larson, Beal and Nicholas have reported palpatory changes at T2-T4 on the left with cardiac problems

Chapman’s Reflexes
A viscerosomatic reflex mechanism
Associated with palpable nodules deep to skin and subcutaneous tissue
Can be used for diagnosis and treatment
Can be used to affect heart, renal and adrenal function


Dr Frank Willard – allostatic load

Somatic dysfunction anywhere affects the individual locally and globally (entirely)
Stressors/imbalance that takes them closer to the threshold of symptoms and disease-activates SNS-HPA couple
Somatic dysfunction is frequently associated with hypersympathetic activity

- Example – upper thoracic dysfunction may be associated with local hypersympathetic tone to innervated structures but also a global increase in sympathetic tone throughout the body

- Overall, the entire individual is closer to their threshold for firing , more susceptible to imbalance and closer to the threshold for symptoms and disease


Epigenetics - do our genes (DNA) just randomly think for themselves?

Probably not! Epigenetics look at the genes as responding to multiple environmental signals that go into them
Positive signals may produce positive epigenetic expression and vice versa
Epigenetic abnormalities may be passed on for multiple generations unless the environmental signals are altered


What are some negative environmental signals that may have a negative impact on gene expression?

Poor nutrition
Toxic thoughts/mental stress
Physical stress
Environmental toxins
Somatic dysfunction


Hypertension (HTN)

Affects a significant amount of the US population
Is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, renal failure and peripheral arterial disease


What determines arterial pressure?



What is the most common cause of hypertension?

We don’t know what causes it
Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine describes multiple contributing factors including increased sympathetic activity
Some antihypertensive medications work by reducing sympathetic effects
Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system – involved in the regulation of arterial pressure via:
- Angiotensin II (vasoconstrictor)
- Aldosterone (sodium retention)


Renin is synthesized by the juxtaglomerular cells of the kidney in response to

Decreased pressure or stretch within the renal afferent arteriole (baroreceptor mechanism)
Sympathetic nervous system stimulation of renin-secreting cells


How can somatic dysfunction contribute to elevated blood pressure and hypertension?

Upper thoracic dysfunction can facilitate increased sympathetic tone to the heart
Increased heart rate
Increased stroke volume

Somatic dysfunction in the thoracic and lumbar regions (especially T6-L2) can facilitate increased sympathetic tone to the adrenal gland and kidney


HTN and SD

Will facilitate catecholamine release from adrenal – resulting in increased cardiac output and peripheral resistance
Will activate renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system – resulting in vasoconstriction (increased vascular resistance) and sodium and fluid retention via aldosterone


Somatic dysfunction affecting the cranium (SBS compression, occipitomastoid compression affecting jugular foramen), occiput, atlas and remainder of cervical spine may alter

carotid receptor function and contribute to alterations in blood pressure


Myocardial Infarction (MI)

Many demonstrate autonomic imbalance
Dysfunction at T2-3 on left in patients with anterior wall MI
Dysfunction at C2 and cranial base (vagus) with inferior wall MI
Most common cause of death within the 1st 24 hours is ventricular fibrillation (50% occur within 1st hour)
Treat them sooner versus later


OMM goals with MI

Bring autonomic balance back to the cardiovascular system
Prevent ventricular fibrillation
Reducing sympathetic tone will cause dilation of the coronary arteries – improved myocardial perfusion
Improve arterial supply and venous and lymphatic drainage to heart


avoid HVLA after MI

HVLA can cause a short-term increase in sympathetic activity
May result in vasoconstriction of coronary arteries and extend infarct
Again, treat the whole patient Osteopathically to improve function and motion but pay special attention to the:
Cranial mechanism (CV 4 helps balance autonomics)
Cervical spine (Vagus)


OMM integration after MI

Again, treat the whole patient Osteopathically to improve function and motion but pay special attention to the:
Cranial mechanism (CV 4 helps balance autonomics)
Cervical spine (Vagus)
Upper thoracic spine and upper ribs
Thoracolumbar junction
Chapman’s reflexes affecting heart, adrenals and kidneys
Gentler techniques are initially a better option!


Heart Failure (CHF)

Clinical syndrome associated with:
Intravascular and interstitial volume overload
Inadequate tissue perfusion
Fatigue and SOB most common
Also see anorexia, nausea, early satiety associated with abdominal pain/fullness, confusion, disorientation, sleep/mood disturbances and nocturia


CHF pathogenesis

Pathogenesis – progressive disorder
- Something damages the heart muscle or reduces its ability to generate force (contract)
- Many causes including coronary artery disease, MI, hypertension, toxic damage (excessive alcohol), viral infection, etc.
- Regardless of cause, result is overall decline in pumping capacity of heart
Vicious downward spiral develops due to activation of neurohormonal systems


The Spiral (CHF)

Decreased CO – unloading of high-pressure baroreceptors in left ventricle, carotid sinus and aortic arch

Afferent signals to CNS – releases ADH (antidiuretic hormone)
- Reabsorption of free water
- Activation of sympathetic efferents to heart, kidney, peripheral vasculature and skeletal muscles

Sympathetic stimulation of kidney associated with
Release of renin and activation of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone pathway
Salt and water retention
Vasoconstriction and increased vascular resistance
Myocyte hypertrophy
Myocyte death
Myocardial fibrosis


OMM Integration- the CHF spiral

Goal is to break into the downward spiral
Reduce intravascular and interstitial volume overload (improve renal function)
Improve tissue perfusion
Optimize cardiac function

Treat entire patient Osteopathically but especially pay attention to:
Cranial mechanism
Cervical spine
Upper thoracics
Thoracolumbar junction (kidneys and adrenals)
Lymphatics (thoracic inlet, respiratory and other diaphragms)
Proceed slowly - these patients can be very fragile!