Why would I want to mention the vagus nerve and total hip replacement in the same sentence? Because the vagus nerve is key to helping us heal and to deal with pain and stress.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve controls bodily functions like mood, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. It also connects our brain to our digestive tract and sends information about the state of organs to the brain. It communicates our “gut feelings.”

The vagus (vagal) nerve is also known as the 10th cranial nerve or cranial nerve X and and helps to regulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the aspect of our autonomic nervous system related to resting, digesting, feeding, breeding, and healing). It starts in a part of the brain that connects to the spinal cord (medulla oblongata), and at the neck it divides and runs down through your chest, around your heart, around your lungs, and through your abdomen and intestines.

Why the vagus nerve helps total hip replacement.

Negotiating the challenges of THR can be stressful. We are often dealing with pain, or worries about the procedure and its outcome. We need tools for managing these stressors. Practicing yoga, especially breathing and restorative yoga, stimulates the vagus nerve and guides us toward healing.

How to Stimulate your Vagus Nerve for the health of Total Hip Replacement

Pause to take a breath. When stressed people tend to hold their breath or breath shallowly this kind of breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the autonomic nervous system related to fight or flight). A way to counter this sympathetic response is to activate the vagus nerve through slow, deep belly breathing. By focusing on your breath you shift focus away from stressful mind chatter and toward the rhythm of the breath. When you are feeling stressed or worried try breathing in through your nose for a count of six and out through your nose for a count of eight. Watch your belly expand and contract. This focused breathing will stimulate your vagus nerve and activate your parasympathetic nervous system to help you relax.

Practice a restorative pose. A restful yoga practice brings the mind to a state of meditation which activates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic response. If you have the time and space, practice Reclined Bound Angle Pose / Supta Buddha Konasana. If you are short on time and space, sit in a chair and bend forward into Child’s Pose / Balasana. Not only is this a restful pose but the pressure on your belly will additionally stimulate your vagus nerve.

Get some stimulating exercise. Exercise has many benefits for the mind and body including stimulating the vagus nerve. Take a brisk walk, ride your bike, go swimming, or practice an invigorating yoga sequence.

Cool off. Cold temperatures help stimulate vagus nerve and reduce the body’s natural stress response. Research shows that taking a cold shower or washing your face in cold water can help slow your heart rate and stimulate blood flow to your brain. Try ending your regular shower with a cold-water rinse, or wash your face in cold water when you are feeling keyed up.

Get a massage. Massages with gentle pressure on the neck, shoulders, and feet help stimulate the vagus nerve. You can rub your own neck or feet. I like to roll my feet on a tennis ball or get a pal to rub your shoulders for a few minutes.

Do something that makes you happy. When we engage with nature or hang out with people we like, this stimulates the vagus nerve. So try to get out into nature. Smell the flowers. Listen to music you like. Meet with a friend. Appreciate the view from your window. Watch a show that makes you laugh.

When we are going through a stressful thing like THR, it can be hard to get motivated to do good things for our bodies and minds. These are a number of suggestions. Remember you do not have to do it all at once. Pick one doable thing and enjoy!

Baby steps!

Here’s to healthy and happy hips!


Talk to your surgeon or healthcare provider before beginning any athletic program.

Download PDF of informational flyer here