Information on peripheral nerves

Peripheral nerves are the nerves making up the peripheral nervous system. These nerves connect the brain and the spinal cord — which make up the central nervous system — to the rest of the body, including limbs and organs. The function of the nervous system as a whole is to send, receive and process information throughout all parts of the body.

In addition to dysfunction at the local level, peripheral nerves can be disrupted by conditions affecting the central nervous system. For example, if the spinal cord becomes compressed by a herniated disc painful symptoms can result. Patient education is an important part of the care process and learning about the peripheral nerves can patients dealing with nerve pain get the help they need to resume a healthy, active life.

Peripheral nerves — types and functions

Peripheral nerves have to main functions and can be:

  • Sensory nerves – These peripheral nerves send information from the limbs and organs to the central nervous system. For example, if you touch something hot, sensory nerves would send signals from the hand to the spinal cord and brain so that you could perceive the heat, making the brain aware of the situation.
  • Motor nerves – These nerves carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the organs and limbs. Using the above example, after the brain realized you touched something hot, the brain would send a signal via the motor nerves to muscles in your shoulder, arm and hand, telling the muscles to move your hand away from the source of heat.

Stemming directly from the brain, the spinal cord is the body’s main conduit of sensory and motor information. Protected by the spinal column, the spinal cord sends out signals to the peripheral nerves through nerve roots that branch off of it. Nerve roots travel through foramina, or openings, in the spinal column, and these nerves extend outward to the peripheries of the body, which is why they’re called peripheral nerves.

Conditions affecting peripheral nerves

Any pain that is a result of dysfunctional peripheral nerves is called peripheral neuropathy. This pain can include the following:

  • Radicular, or radiating, pain down the arms and legs (called radiculopathy)
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Acute skin sensitivity

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are very similar to spinal conditions like spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, bulging discs and arthritis of the spine, so it’s important to get a correct diagnosis so that you can receive appropriate treatment for nerve disorders.

If you have been diagnosed with a spinal condition and weeks and months of physician-prescribed conservative treatment are not relieving your pain, reach out to Laser Spine Institute.

Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open back procedures, offering our patients a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complication. For a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a potential candidate, contact Laser Spine Institute today.