Sympathetic nervous system — overview

The sympathetic nervous system controls your body’s instinctual fight or flight response. For example, if you are walking along the sidewalk and encounter a dangerous situation, like a car coming your way, your sympathetic nervous system will increase your heart rate and breathing, halt digestion and increase your muscle strength to help you get out of the way.

Anatomy of the sympathetic nervous system

The sympathetic nervous system begins in the spinal cord, then branches out and serves specific muscles, organs and glands. The sympathetic system is part of the larger autonomic nervous system, which maintains the involuntary, unconscious actions of your body’s organs. The autonomic nervous system also contains the parasympathetic nervous system, which is devoted to the rest and digestion functions of the body. So when there is not a fight or flight (sympathetic) response needed, the parasympathetic nervous system halts and resumes normal digestion, heart rate, secretions, breathing and so on.

Indications that you are in a situation that has activated the sympathetic nervous system include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Goosebumps

Getting treatment for nerve compression

The human nervous system is extremely complex and there are many injuries and conditions that can cause the nervous system to malfunction. The spinal cord and its nerve roots, for example, can easily be compressed by displaced anatomy related to conditions like arthritis, bulging discs or herniated discs. Compression, or pinching, on the main pathways of the nervous system can cause painful, debilitating symptoms throughout the body.

These symptoms can often be treated with a course of conservative treatment options, including rest, physical therapy and pain medication. Surgery is usually considered if weeks or months of attempted treatment does not bring relief.

Laser Spine Institute performs minimally invasive procedures for the spine that can decompress nerves while providing patients a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open back surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about becoming a potential candidate for one of our procedures by getting your no-cost MRI review.*