We have hundreds of nerve endings in our body, each and every one serving a purpose. Proper spinal nerve function is something often overlooked in the scheme of health and wellness, but it is incredibly important, and you will soon find out why!
Spinal nerves are located within your peripheral nervous system. They control how your body experiences sensations and they perform voluntary movements. Everyone has 31 pairs of these nerves, and damage to any one of them could create chronic or temporary symptoms.
However, chances are you don’t even think about your spinal nerves unless you’ve suffered some kind of injury that has affected them. Keep reading to learn more about the important functions of your spinal nerves and how to recover from nerve damage.
Two Kinds of Spinal Nerves
Spinal nerves are located throughout the spinal cord in places including your neck, chest and lower back. There are a few different types, and they each serve specific functions.
Sensory nerves give information to your joints and muscles about how your body is positioned in space. The nerves also transmit information about sensations felt on the surfaces of your skin. If you feel pain after touching a hot plate of food or accidentally brushing up against a stove when it’s turned on, sensory nerves were responsible for your response to the stimuli. Pressure against the skin, such as the grip of a person’s hand, is also a feeling relayed by the spinal nerves.
Motor nerves pass information from the brain to the muscles and contribute to voluntary body movements, and there are several categories of motor spinal nerves.
Lumbar and sacral spinal nerves are related to muscles in the legs, hips and feet. The sacral nerves are also involved in information received by your urethral and anal sphincters.
Spinal nerves in the cervical area relate to muscles in your diaphragm, arms, shoulders and neck. Finally, thoracic spinal nerves are associated with the trunk muscles and those used to allow you to breathe.
Your Body Is Heavily Influenced by Spinal Nerves
The spinal nerves help your body do many everyday functions. However, if some of them are not functioning properly, they can cause some seemingly unrelated symptoms.
As you can see from this detailed graphic, a problem with the spinal nerves at the upper vertebral level can be a factor in heart conditions, high blood pressure and even having a runny nose. Also, issues with the sacral spinal nerves can be linked to problems with the menstrual cycle, leg numbness and constipation.
What to Do if You Suspect You Have a Spinal Nerve Problem
An undiagnosed or untreated spinal nerve problem could significantly affect your life. If you’re dealing with something that might be related to a spinal nerve issue, the best thing to do is make an appointment with an experienced chiropractor or acupuncturist. The next best thing would be to start up a regular yoga practice, as this has helped countless individuals with spinal nerve injuries and on-going issues related to back and neck pain. If your situation is more extreme, making an appointment with an experienced neurosurgeon would help you get more definitive answers to your issue. He or she can perform tests, assess symptoms and make recommendations about how to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
When the motor nerves are damaged, you may deal with symptoms such as muscle twitching and weakness. Damage to the sensory nerves can cause you to have problems with spatial awareness and experience burning or prickling sensations.
There are a variety of ways to treat spinal nerve problems, and the recovery process can be lengthy. Prescription medications and physical therapy are two commonly suggested interventions for people experiencing spinal nerve issues. The latter is often combined with aquatic therapy in specialized pools.
Scientists have found aquatic therapy to be particularly beneficial for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries because of damage to the spinal cord and spinal nerves. Specifically, the buoyancy effect from being in the water can help those patients more easily perform weight-bearing activities. Also, warm water temperatures can alleviate muscle spasticity and decrease dependence on medications.
Now that you have a basic overview of what the spinal nerves do and how to treat problems, it should be easier to respond appropriately if you or someone you love is coping with this kind of health problem.