All of our body is made up of nerves and cells. These are the ones that send signals to and from the brain. These signals are what makes it possible for us to move around, pick up stuff, touch and feel things. It's what gives us all of our bodily functions.
The central nervous system is what caters to our brain and spine. But what controls the other nerves and cells?
We will be looking more into the amazing functions of the peripheral nervous system. Where is it located? Which nerves is it connected to? Can it get injured?
Keep reading to find out.
What Is The Peripheral Nerve?
The peripheral nerve, or nervous system, is what controls all the nerves and cells out in the limbs of the body. You can look at it as being the messenger between the brain and the limbs. If you look at a picture of the body and all the nerves, you will notice some that run along the spine and the skull, this is the central nervous system. Then you will notice all the "branches" that run out to the limbs. This is the peripheral nervous system, PNS.
It is made up of two different categories; the somatic and automatic systems. The somatic controls things like senses, feelings when we touch or taste something. The automatic is what controls our digestive system and automatic movements like our heart rate.
Since the PNS is a system, this means it actually is a whole category of nerves. All of these are controlling different limbs of the body. Here is a small list of some of the nerves you will find in the PNS:
The brachial plexus nerve is actually a little network of its own. It consists of several other cervical nerve roots. They run together from the spinal cord all the way up to the armpit. It delivers fibers to many of the upper body parts, such as the shoulder, chest, arm and hand.
Femoral and Lateral Femoral Cutaneous
The femoral nerve is part of a little branch that originates in the torso. The femoral itself runs all the way down the leg to the front of the thigh. This nerve is what makes it possible for us to move our knees.
The lateral femoral cutaneous supply the front and horizontal parts of the thigh.
The common peroneal nerve is actually a whole branch in itself. It starts at the back of the knee and runs all the way down to the feet and into the toes. This nerve is what makes us able to move and lift up our ankles and toes. Without it, we wouldn't be able to walk.
The radial nerve starts from the back of the brachial plexus. It is what gives us the movement in our hands. This nerve is very important since it is the one that makes it possible for us to move our fingers.
The SAN is amazing! It is a small bundle of nerves that run from the top of the spine to the skull. It is in charge of two huge muscles in our upper body. The sternocleidomastoid, which controls the neck and head movements. And the trapezius muscles that control the shoulders and arms.
The median nerve is also an irreplaceable nerve! It starts from the center and horizontal parts of the brachial plexus. It stimulates the muscles in our forearm, this makes us able to "pinch" items so we can pick them up. Too much pressure on the median nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
The ulnar nerve is also present in the arm. It controls the last two fingers and is what allow us to hold on to items.
The sciatic nerve is huge! It is actually the largest one in the body. It controls the hips and lower legs. It starts all the way at the back of the pelvis and extends down the thigh.
All of these nerves are what makes up our peripheral system. Without them, we wouldn't be able to walk, run, move our head or arms. Some of the largest nerves are found in the PNS, also some of the most amazing.
Where Is The Peripheral Nerve Located?
The peripheral nerve isn't just one single nerve, it is a whole system. It delivers fibers and stimulates the nerves and cells in the outer limbs of the body.
The PNS mainly starts at the torso. It then branches out into the body parts. It is an enormous system!
It is also the main thing that connects the limbs to the spine and brain.
Can The Peripheral Nerve Become Injured?
Since the peripheral nerve is a big system made up of a bunch of other nerves, injury can happen. And it is actually very vulnerable because most of the nerves are located very close to the skin. When one of these gets injured, surgery is sometimes the only way out.
The nerves that make up this amazing system are very prone to nerve damages. Any trauma or injury will affect them. Unlike the nerves of the CNS, those are all protected by the skull and the vertebrae.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition caused by trauma or damage to the nerves in the PNS. It can also be caused by other diseases such as diabetes, Coeliac disease or even a vitamin deficiency.
The injuries to the nerves can be mild or severe. It all depends on the fibers that make up the nerve. If they are damaged and broken it can be hard to fix without surgical interference. If the fiber is still unharmed, it should easily be able to heal on its own.
Symptoms can vary depending on what caused the damage. But some common signs to look out for is:
- Pain in limbs.
- Weakness in limbs.
- Tingling sensations.
- Total loss of feeling.
If you ever experience any symptoms that may point to peripheral neuropathy, it is vital that you get checked out. As with any nerve injury, the sooner it's discovered the better the outcome.
Damage can also be caused by chemotherapy. If the PN is caused by chemotherapy it can in some instances not be totally removed. It can cause long term effects such as:
- Tingling sensations.
- Sensitivity to cold.
Single Nerve Injury
The individual nerves can get injured as well, this is called mononeuropathy. It affects only one nerve. To give an example you can look at what happens during a whiplash. It’s a sudden movement that can lead to trauma in the SAN. Since this is the nerve that controls the neck and shoulder muscles, it will be the one that gets injured in this case. If this nerve is broken it can’t heal on its own.
This can happen to several of the nerves in the PNS.
Can It Cause Any Long Term Effects?
Long term effects depend heavily on the severity of the injury. If the damage was only mild it could heal on its own and you might not even notice it was there in the first place. But if the nerve fiber is broken it can be hard to repair. This can lead to a few disabilities in the future.
Since these nerves are the ones that control the muscles in the arms and legs, if they get injured it will affect the limbs right away. Some long term effects may include:
- Pain in the affected area.
- Loss of movement.
- Weakness of the muscles.
- Loss of balance.
- Muscle spasms.
These can sometimes be treated with specific surgical procedures. Physiotherapy plays a huge role in rehabilitating the nerves and body part after the injury or surgery.
The peripheral nervous system is made up of all the amazing nerves that give us the ability to move around freely, taste the food we want to taste and pick up what we need.
Here you will find some of the largest nerves in the human body. It gives us our strength, but it can also be our biggest weakness if any part of it becomes injured.
It works together with the central nervous system to make our body function. It is the messenger between the brain and the limbs.
When the PNS gets injured it's called peripheral neuropathy. It affects several of the nerves in the system. It can be caused by an injury, but it can also be caused by a disease.
When only one nerve is affected, it is called mononeuropathy.
The injury can heal and fully recover on its own as long as the nerve isn’t completely broken. But if the nerve is broken, surgery is the only way out.
Rehabilitating the muscle is important after an injury. It can be done through physiotherapy.
The long term effects can be devastating. Loss of movement is one of them and it can be very hard to live with.