Heart racing. Sweaty palms. Shortness of breath. Triggers. Fear, anxiety, and PTSD are no joke. What if there was a shot that could help you control fear, anxiety, and panic attacks and PTSD by rebooting the right nerves?
The stellate ganglion is a collection of nerves in the neck which seems to have control over the activation of the amygdala, a primitive component of the limbic system thought to play a role in the processing of fear, anxiety, panic attacks, and the basic “fight or flight” responses that we experience during dangerous situations. Stellate Ganglion Blocks (SGBs) are extremely precise injections that target this collection of sympathetic nerves and can help to control these responses.
To understand how to treat anxiety and PTSD, it’s helpful to understand a bit more about the body’s response to danger.
When we are exposed to fear-based stimulation, even if our conscious mind is completely unaware of the perceived threat, this information is immediately sent to the amygdala. The amygdala then forwards that information to the hypothalamus, which is responsible for triggering the sympathetic “fight or flight” response and reflexes.
For example, if a car jumps a curb unexpectedly, instead of having to think about what to do, we reflexively jump out of the way. This is a direct result of the amygdala triggering a sympathetic reflex that forces a reaction.
While fear is considered a response to threat, anxiety involves the dread that accompanies thinking about a potential threat. The amygdala may trigger anxiety before the conscious brain even recognizes danger. Small daily cues can trigger ongoing “fight or flight” responses that heighten the sympathetic tone coming from our brain. An overactive amygdala is often involved in people with anxiety disorders.
Remember the car example? Once you jump out of the way of that car, you may associate the sounds of other cars, traffic or even a horn with the experience of almost getting run over. Just these sounds alone could be enough to trigger the amygdala into stimulating the “Fight or Flight” response that creates a sense of anxiety or doom.
The amygdala also plays an important role in programming memories associated with fear-inducing events. The amygdala can program the brain to recognize a certain sound or smell to trigger a “fight or flight” response that can cause the same reaction from the first time the incident occurred.
For example, you could be watching a movie and hear sounds of cars, traffic or even a horn. The immediate feeling of anxiety or impending doom could trigger you to “jump out of the way” of the oncoming car, even though you are at home sitting safely and comfortably within your own living room.
You can see how previous experiences or trauma could create a situation that doesn’t make sense. The hypersensitive or overactive amygdala causes a response that isn’t proper for a particular situation. It isn’t normal to jump off the couch in your own living room or to be triggered into feeling a sense of doom and fear every time you hear traffic.
When this does happen, the condition is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is literally a condition where our primitive limbic brain is over-reacting to previous trauma in an attempt to protect us. For lizards, this is important for survival. But with our complex human emotions, this over-reaction can create a tremendous impact on our daily lives.
Though the function of the amygdala is complex, we can reboot some of these nerve impulses that trigger fear-based responses and calm symptoms of anxiety and PTSD in as little as 30 minutes with precise injections of anesthetic. Learn more about Stellate Ganglion Blocks, or call our office to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Ryan Wood is a licensed Naturopathic and Chiropractic physician focusing on regenerative medicine and regenerative injection therapies as well as general musculoskeletal and non-surgical orthopedic medicine.
With almost two decades of orthopedic practice across multiple disciplines, he has the necessary experience to ensure proper diagnoses and management of complex cases.