Most people are concerned about taking care of their heart as they believe that it’s the most important organ. While they’re right to an extent, they should also not forget about their nervous system.
A person’s nervous system is involved in everything that your body does, whether it be regulating your breathing or controlling your muscles or sensing heat or cold. (1)
The different types of nerves that exist in a person’s body are autonomic, motor and sensory.
Some of the activities that autonomic nerves control include heart rate, blood pressure, temperature regulation and digestion. Motor nerves control one’s movements and actions by transmitting information to the muscles from the spinal cord and the brain. Sensory nerves are responsible for transmitting information to the spinal cord and the brain from your skin and muscles.
Our mere existence results in damage to our nerves. So what are the most common nerves that we damage as we get on with our day?
People who have experienced radial nerve injury had caused damage to the nerve in their upper arm. The radial nerve controls the tricep muscle and helps to extend the wrist and fingers. It also provides a sensation in your hand.
The radial nerve is vulnerable to injury since it’s close to the bone that’s in the upper arm. Having radial nerve injury can lead to radial nerve palsy.
The symptoms of radial nerve injury include weakness, as well as a loss of function in the wrist, hand or fingers. A person who has radial nerve injury will feel pain.
A broken humerus, the bone that spans from the elbow to the shoulder, is the most common cause of radial nerve injury.
The worst part about radial nerve injury is that you don’t have to be awake to sustain it. Sleeping on your arm can cause radial nerve injury. During the day, sustained pressure such as using crutches incorrectly will also lead to damage to that nerve. Other ways to sustain radial nerve injury is by a direct blow such as a sports injury or one that involves sharp objects such as glass or knives. (2)
To diagnose this type of injury, the doctor will move each joint in the upper arm and ask the person to inform them of any sensation of stretching, pain or tingling.
Otherwise known as the eye of the hand, the median nerve is one of the three main nerves in the hand and forearm. It extends along the middle of the arm and forearm and stretches to the hand.
In order to understand the upper limb, we have to examine the median nerve.
The median nerve enables us with opposing our thumb, which is important for precision handling and performing activities such as writing, winding a watch or threading a needle. (3)
The median nerve runs through the length of the arm and passes through a passage called the carpal tunnel and finishes at the hand. Within the carpal tunnel, it divides to form two common palmar digital nerves.
One of the reasons the median is so important is that it helps to control the movement and feeling of your thumb, as well as the movement of all the fingers except the pinky.
People suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome when the tunnel is narrowed, usually from swelling and pressure on the median nerve. A person suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome will feel tingling, numbness or weakness in their hands.
One of the most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive motions such as typing or other motions that you do with your wrist continuously throughout the day. Believe it or not, being pregnant can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. (4)
People who have carpal tunnel syndrome should get it treated immediately as the symptoms can last a long time and can naturally dissipate but return.
The femoral nerve is one of the main peripheral nerves of the lower limb. It lies outside the femoral sheath in the thigh and provides articular branches to the hip and knee joints. It’s one of the largest nerves in your leg and located near the groin. (5)
The purpose of the femoral nerve is to control the muscles that assist in straightening your leg and moving your hips.
Damaging your femoral nerve affects the person’s ability to walk and might cause problems with sensation in one’s foot or leg. Femoral nerve injury leads to a condition called femoral neuropathy and happens when a person can’t move or feel part of their leg due to damaged nerves.
The good news is that the condition goes away without treatment, but medications or physical therapy might be necessary if the symptoms don’t improve.
Remember when we mentioned that our mere existence causes nerve damage?
Well, a person doesn’t even have to move to get femoral neuropathy. In fact, pressure on the nerve from prolonged immobilization is one of the causes of femoral nerve damage. The damage can result in poor flexion of the hip and the inability to extend one’s knee. (6)
Other causes of femoral nerve damage include radiation to the pelvis or pelvic fracture. Medical conditions such as diabetes or obesity, vitamin deficiency and exposure to toxic substances also cause femoral neuropathy.
Many doctors have stated that nerves of the head and neck are among the most important organs of the nervous system. From the spinal cord in the neck, eight spinal nerves branch off to form a network of nerves called the cervical plexus.
It forms many connections between the brain and the skin, as well as the muscles of the head and neck. (7)
The cervical plexus is located in the posterior triangle of the neck and halfway up the sternocleidomastoid muscle and within and the prevertebral layer of the cervical fascia. (8)
Compressing a nerve in the neck or when irritated by branching away from the spinal cord leads to a medical term called Cervical Radiculopathy. That’s more commonly known as pinched nerve.
A pinched nerve causes pain that radiates into the shoulder and muscle weakness that pervades down the arm and into the hand. The most common cause is wear and tear that naturally occurs with age-related degeneration of the spine.
It’s most common in people aged 50 to 54 but can happen to younger people through a sudden injury that results in a herniated disk. (9)
Experiencing pinched nerves in the neck feels like pins and needles and can cause pain in the shoulder, arm or hand. Exercises such as trap stretch, neck bend, head turn or chin tuck can rid the pain, but severe cases might need medical care.
A person experiences pinched nerve when the nerve is damaged and cannot send signals to the brain. Activities and habits that may cause pinched nerve are walking, sitting or standing with poor posture. Extra pressure and repetitive actions can also lead to pinched nerves.
The peroneal nerve branches from the sciatic nerve in the leg and is part of the peripheral nerve system. It’s located on the outside of the fibula and slightly below the knee.
Since the peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve, it means that it supplies movement and sensation to the lower leg, foot and toes.
Sustaining an injury to the peroneal nerve can cause foot drop, which is a unique way of walking since the person is unable to bend the foot upward at the ankle. A person affected by this condition will have walking problems, weakness of the ankles or feet, as well as toes that drag while walking. (10)
This condition can affect people of all ages.
Some of the causes of peroneal nerve injury include:
- Crossing your legs regularly.
- Wearing high boots regularly.
- Pressure to the knee from awkward position during sleep.
- Using a tight plaster cast on the lower leg.
- Trauma or injury to the knee.
The condition affects people who:
- Are usually very thin.
- Have certain autoimmune conditions.
- Have nerve damage from other medical problems.
- Have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
Treating the condition involves getting physical therapy to improve your walking and mobility. Some people might require non-surgical treatment such as braces or splints that fit inside a shoe to help you walk easily. (11)
What To Do?
It seems that nerve damage is inevitable. Whether you’ve got your legs crossed or you sit for prolonged periods, you’re bound to have nerve damage in at least one part of the body.
Being immobile for prolonged periods certainly doesn’t help to ensure that you don’t have nerve injuries, not to mention putting a lot of pressure on certain body parts.
Scientists have also shown that your lifestyle has a great impact on nerve damage. Many people consume almost all types of food and toxic substances then wonder why they experience nerve injuries.
Although it seems that you’re destined to experience nerve injury regardless of what you do, there’s always actions that you can take to prevent it or to remedy it once it happens.