The central nervous system (CNS) is composed of the brain and the spinal cord, and, along with the peripheral nervous system, controls and regulates all bodily functions and sensations.
The brain is divided into hemispheres and is made up of three primary divisions – the forebrain, the midbrain and the hindbrain – along with the brain stem. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve tissue and other cells that extends from the brain and down the back to the second lumbar vertebra. The bundle of nerve roots that extend beyond the bottom of the spinal cord, called the cauda equina, serves the legs, feet, and lower-body organs.
The central nervous system works with the peripheral nervous system to send and receive messages in the form of electrical impulses to and from different regions of the body. Some functions are voluntary, such as wiggling your toes or turning your head. Other functions are involuntary, such as digestion and the heartbeat. Still other functions can be either voluntary or involuntary, such as breathing or blinking.
The central nervous system has three major components:
- Sensory system – sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste
- Motor system – voluntary and involuntary movement
- Homeostasis and higher brain functions – thought, speech, sleeping, waking, perspiration, emotions, etc.
The central nervous system is vulnerable to an enormous range of potential disorders, the study of which is called neurology. Among the issues neurologists deal with is spinal cord injury and other disorders that lead to compression or irritation of spinal nerve roots. Herniated disc, bulging disc, degenerative disc disease, and other disorders can interfere with the function of the central nervous system and produce potentially debilitating neck or back pain as well as tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. The symptoms of these spinal conditions normally can be managed conservatively, using physical therapy or pain medications.
Chronic back or neck pain that can’t be managed conservatively might prompt a doctor to suggest surgery as an option. Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers an alternative to traditional back surgery. The award-winning surgeons at LSI use gentle, endoscopic techniques to perform minimally invasive procedures on an outpatient basis. Contact LSI to learn more and for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.