Somatic nervous system overview

The somatic nervous system (SNS) is made up of nerves that are connected to the skin, skeletal muscles and sensory organs consisting of the eyes, ears, tongue, skin and nose. This system enables our voluntary control of muscles, as well as our reception of sights, sounds, sensations, tastes and smells. While, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) deals with involuntary actions, such as digestion, salivation, heart rate, perspiration and the fight or flight response.

To do its job, the somatic nervous system employs two kinds of nerves responsible for sensory and information, along with voluntary movement — efferent and afferent nerves. Efferent nerves, also known as motor neurons, carry signals from the brain and the spinal cord to the muscle fibers in the body. On the other hand, afferent nerves, also known as sensory nerves, carry sensory information from the nerves to the central nervous system and send it to the brain and spinal cord.

The somatic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system, which works in conjunction with the central nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system is made up of a network of nerves that connect the limbs and organs to the brain and spinal cord. Read on to learn more about conditions associated with the somatic nervous system as well as treatment options for any chronic symptoms your more experience.

Causes of damage to the somatic nervous system

In the spinal column, nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and form a network of somatic nerves throughout the body. Damage to or compression of the nerve roots in the spine that serve the somatic nervous system can lead to symptoms like numbness, tingling, loss of movement, burning and pain in the area of the body that corresponds to that somatic spinal nerve.

Common causes of nerve root compression in the somatic nervous system include:

  • Degenerative disc disease. This condition develops with age and often causes discs in the spine to become brittle.
  • Herniated disc. With this condition, the outer layer of a disc ruptures and inner disc material bulges into the spinal canal.
  • Bulging disc. With this condition, a disc becomes misshapen and part of it pushes into the spinal canal.
  • Spinal stenosis. This condition describes the narrowing of the spinal canal where painful pressure is placed on the surrounding nerves.

Treatments for somatic nervous system conditions

Once your doctor has determined that one or more of the above conditions is causing painful compression on spinal nerves, he or she may suggest a course of conservative treatment that includes low-impact exercises, physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, chiropractic visits and epidural steroids. Although these treatments can provide temporary relief, it may be necessary to see if you are a potential candidate for a more substantial treatment such as the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute.

At Laser Spine Institute, our outpatient procedures result in no lengthy recovery and are a safer and effective alternative compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.^ Our team of dedicated surgeons is able to perform a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques in order to alleviate your discomfort while resulting in less bleeding and a lower risk of complication as opposed to traditional open back surgery.^

Let the experts at Laser Spine Institute introduce you to our state-of-the-art procedures that have helped more than 75,000 patients today find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Contact us for your no-cost MRI review* to determine if our outpatient procedures would be effective in relieving your condition associated with damage to the somatic nervous system.