How do the nerves of the spine work?

Centro de la columna Vertebral: January 14, 2020

como funcionan los nervios en la columna

How do the nerves of the spine work?

The spinal cord branches out along its entire length, giving rise to the cervical nerves, thoracic nerves, lumbar nerves and sacral nerves, which correspond to the functional areas of the spine. These nerves are responsible for keeping the entire body functioning and coordinating the sensations and movements that we have, as well as locating the intensity and location of pain arising from an illness or injury. Also, they are divided into levels that control different areas of the body:

  • Cervical: neck, shoulders and arms.
  • Thoracic: nerves of the sympathetic system and chest
  • Lumbar and sacrum: feet, legs, pelvis and lower abdomen.

Symptoms of certain conditions

Neck pain is a discomfort commonly caused by muscle tension; however, it can involve compression of the nerves and consequently produce a feeling of numbness, tingling or weakness in the arm or hand. This type of cervical pain can be caused by nerve or spinal cord injury.

Compression of the spinal nerve root causes these symptoms to extend to the legs and even cause loss of bladder and bowel control. A nerve root injury is known as a "pinched nerve"; but the medical term is cervical radiculopathy.

If the problem comes from the thoracic nerve roots the pain is below the rib and is usually caused by thoracic herniated discs, sequels of osteoarthritis, compression fractures and scoliosis. In the thorax, the injuries can also occur in:

  • The spinal cord: myelopathy.
  • Thoracic spinal nerve roots: radiculopathy
  • Spinal nerves: neuropathy
  • Intercostal nerves: intercostal neuralgia.
  • Peripheral branches of the spinal nerves: peripheral neuropathy

Radiculopathy is very common and occurs when the spinal cord nerve root is compressed, inflamed or injured. For example, pain in the sciatica is a form of radiculopathy caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, which passes through the buttocks and extends to the back of the leg, causing a burning lumbar pain downward that occasionally reaches the foot.

In very extreme cases, that is if the nerve is pinched between the disc and an adjacent bone, the symptoms are leg muscle weakness due to the interruption in the transmission of signals traveling along the nerve.

Furthermore, traumatic injuries caused by sports, car accidents or a fall can cause excessive compression of the spine, causing on any of the nerves rooted in the spinal cord. This causes irritation and consequently low back pain and sciatica.

Prevention of certain conditions

Weight control is one of the main recommendations to avoid suffering from these conditions, as well as practicing exercises, not carrying heavy things, bending down properly and not adopting bad postures. Also recommended are counter-irritants and analgesics in topical applications that stimulate the nerves in the skin, the flow of blood and reduce inflammation to give a sensation of heat or cold in order to alleviate the sensation of pain.

There is a whole range of possibilities commonly used in the short term to treat pain, stimulate the spine, block nerve signals, but the most advisable thing to do is to see a specialist who can identify if they are required or if you have to resort to physiotherapy, medication and/or surgery.

Schedule an appointment at the Centro de la Columna Vertebral

At theCentro de la Columna Vertebral we have a comprehensive, safe and effective treatment for conditions affecting the back (or spine). Go to your nearest Center and ask for an evaluation with our health professionals.

Schedule your appointment here

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“The information contained in this blog is of an informative nature; it seeks to promote good health habits in the population and by no means replaces medical consultation. Content reviewed and corrected by Dr. Armando Acevedo Mendez, orthopedics and traumatology specialist. Professional license: 602691.”

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