Spinal nerves are pairs of sensory and motor nerve bundles that have their root in the spinal cord. Sensory spinal nerves send information from the sense organs and the body receptors to the central nervous system, and motor spinal nerves transmit messages to the muscles. Cranial nerves are a group of 12 pairs of sensory, motor, or mixed (having separate sensory and motor fibers) nerves that connect with the brain stem and the lower parts of the brain. Autonomic nerves are motor nerves only (part of the autonomic oervous system). They regulate a great variety of bodily functions, like the pumping action of the heart muscle, and the smooth muscles of the digestive system.
All of the CNS’s responses are carried along nerves, made up of a bundle of nerve fibers (axons) of many nerve cells (neurons), which spread out from the CNS and make up the peripheral nervous system. All activity produced by the nervous system is based on transmitting impulses through this network of neurons. However, for various reasons, this activity can be disrupted.
The Results of Nerve Damage
When part of the nervous system is damaged, through disease or injury, disorders can occur. This can result in minor or temporary problems, such as pins and needles, or cause pain in certain areas (such as the face), called neuralgia, which is any pain originating in a nerve. Nerves can become trapped, as in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, or perhaps sciatica, or they can become irritated at the spine (their root), as in the case of lumbago, neck pain, and other structural problems. But damage to the nerve may also be more severe and long term, resulting in more serious, degenerative diseases affecting the movement of the whole body, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease, which can cause permanent disabilities. Complementary medicine has much to offer in the field of neurological disease, particularly in controlling pain and encouraging normal functioning of nerves that have become pinched or trapped (in the case of a prolapsed or “slipped disk” for instance) or damaged. Acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic, most of the bodywork therapies, and nutritional therapy, among others, have a useful role to play. Many modern-day neurological problems are the result of stress, which may cause muscles to spasm because of posture problems, tension, and other physical manifestations of the problem. Stress-reducing therapies, such as relaxation exercises, meditation, and yoga, often have a beneficial effect on the nervous system as a whole.