Nerve Damage & Injury

About Nerve Damage and Nerve Injury

The nervous system is comprised of two major parts, or subdivisions: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

  • The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord. The CNS has various centers that carry out the sensory, motor and integration of data. These centers can be subdivided to lower centers (including the spinal cord and brain stem) and higher centers communicating with the brain.

  • The PNS is a vast network of motor, sensory, and autonomic nerves that are linked to the brain and the spinal cord. The main function of the PNS is to connect the CNS to the limbs and organs, essentially serving as a relay between the CNS and the rest of the body. The PNS provides sensory feedback to the CNS and is the connection between the CNS and the muscles of the body controlling voluntary movement (the somatic nervous system) and involuntary functions such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, etc. (the sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomic nervous systems).

Nerve damage occurs when the signals between neurons within the CNS and/or PNS are disrupted. Nerve damage can occur anywhere in the body and frequently results in some loss of function. Nerve damage can be a result of injury, neurodegenerative disease, or other diseases/conditions.

The cells of the CNS and PNS respond differently to nerve damage. Most neurons in the central nervous system fail to repair or renew themselves, unlike other cells in the body. Therefore, if neurons die through illness or damage, the nervous system can permanently lose some of its abilities. In contrast, PNS axons readily regenerate, allowing recovery of function after peripheral nerve damage. However, it should be noted that in the case of peripheral nerve damage, although recovery is often possible, recovery to full function can be slow and is not always achieved.