Peripheral nervous system — an overview

The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves that travels to the arms, legs and organs and is one of two parts of the body’s nervous system. The other main part is the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord.

While the peripheral nervous system resides outside of the central nervous system, the two systems work in conjunction with each other. How? The peripheral nervous system connects the brain and spinal cord to the limbs and organs. In this way, the brain and spinal cord, which make up the central nervous system, are able to communicate with the rest of the body, providing it with important functions like feeling, movement and regulation of the organs.

If you are dealing with a spine condition which is causing nerve compression and taking you away from your normal life, learning about the peripheral nervous system can give you knowledge which may be able to help you and your physician make the best treatment decision for you.

Peripheral nervous system — basic function

The nerves of the peripheral nervous system — the peripheral nerves — can be divided into two subcategories: the sensory nerves and the motor nerves. While the sensory nerves carry information from external stimuli to the spinal cord and brain, motor nerves carry information from the brain and spinal cord to organs, muscles and glands.

Motor nerves can be further classified as those in the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. A few functions that the somatic nerves control include:

  • Smell, taste, tongue muscles and chewing
  • Sight and eye muscles
  • Hearing and balance

Meanwhile, the autonomic nerves control the following and more:

  • Digestion
  • Salivation
  • Respiration
  • Heart rate
  • Perspiration
  • Urination

The autonomic nervous system can be divided even further. It is made up of the sympathetic nervous system, which generally controls the fight or flight functions of our body, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which generally controls the rest and digest functions of our body.

Treatment for peripheral nervous system disorders

The peripheral nervous system is complex and plays a crucial part in our body’s ability to function. Any constriction or pressure on nerves in the spinal column can lead to painful and debilitating symptoms. While these symptoms can be treated with conservative options like medication and physical therapy, surgery is usually considered when weeks or months of these options do not bring improvement.

Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures with our minimally invasive spine surgery. These procedures use a muscle-sparing, less than 1-inch incision which leads to a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication than traditional surgery.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.