The brain and spinal cord get a lot of attention for good reason. As the central nervous system, they’re at the very heart of how our bodies work. However, the peripheral nerves, which are outside of the central nervous system, play an equally important role.
The peripheral nerves connect your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body, constantly relaying messages back and forth to help you react to things in your environment. As a result, if these crucial nerves become damaged or diseased — a condition known as peripheral neuropathy — it can trigger a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms.
At Advanced Pain Management Center in Portland, Oregon, Vladimir Fiks, MD, works with people living with nerve damage and disease. As an expert in pain management, Dr. Fiks offers the latest treatments available to provide ongoing pain relief, including spinal injections and spinal or peripheral nerve stimulation. To better understand the nature of nerve problems, such as peripheral neuropathy, it helps to know how your peripheral nerves work.
The peripheral nervous system
Your peripheral nervous system has two parts: autonomic and somatic.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) takes care of things you don’t have to think about, or your involuntary bodily functions. For example, your ANS regulates your glands and controls your heartbeat, breathing, blood flow, and digestion.
The somatic nervous system (SNS) is all about relaying sensory information and voluntary movement. So, these nerves carry information from your skin, eyes, and ears to your central nervous system. This also enables you to physically respond to something in your environment.
All of the peripheral nerves located outside of your brain and spinal cord make all of these functions possible.
The peripheral nerves
Both parts of your peripheral nervous system contain three types of nerves: sensory, autonomic, and motor.
These peripheral nerves connect your central nervous system to your skin, which enables you to feel sensations, including pain. So, if you touch something, sensory nerves carry that information to your brain so it can explain what you’re feeling.
Autonomic nerves are responsible for involuntary functions, such as digestion and heart rate. Since these are unconscious functions, these nerves work without you being aware of them.
Your motor nerves connect your central nervous system to your muscles. Each time you move, your brain sends messages by way of your spinal cord to your motor nerves, which causes your muscles to contract and, in turn, create movement.
Peripheral nerves can also regrow when injured, unlike the brain and spinal cord. However, some damage can become permanent or require surgical interventions to restore function.
Signs of a peripheral nerve problem
If you develop a problem with a peripheral nerve, this can disrupt or distort the communication signals between it and your spinal cord and brain. One common peripheral nerve condition is sciatica. Sciatica affects the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back down to your feet, and this condition can cause a number of symptoms, such as pain, numbness, and tingling.
If a peripheral nerve is pinched or affected in any way, this can result in a variety of symptoms depending on the severity of the damage and the peripheral nerves involved. Signs of a peripheral nerve disorder can include:
- Muscle weakness or paralysis
- Burning or tingling
- Extreme sensitivity
- Digestive problems
- Heat intolerance
- Abnormal sweating
- Bladder or bowel issues
- Lightheadedness from changes in blood pressure
- Heaviness in the feet and hands
You can even develop coordination problems or experience frequent falling.
Treating peripheral nerve problems
Peripheral nerve problems can cause debilitating symptoms, but they don’t have to. It all starts with a comprehensive evaluation to identify which nerve is triggering your symptoms and why.
Dr. Fiks offers medical and interventional treatment including appropriate nerve blocks, spinal and peripheral nerve stimulation for these conditions.
With his integrative approach that relies on medical and interventional techniques, Dr. Fiks can provide the most effective measures available to treat your symptoms right at the source.
Do you have peripheral nerve pain or neuropathy? If you do, Dr. Fiks can help. To learn more, call 503-405-8718 or book an appointment online with Advanced Pain Management Center today.