The peripheral nervous system is an intricate part of our central nervous system that helps carry out the messages from the nervous system to the brain and other organs. Follow this article to learn more about what the peripheral nervous system does and what are the parts of the peripheral nervous system.
Our entire body is made from billions of nerves and cells and every nerve is directly or indirectly connected with the nervous system. The nervous system is like a unit that has power over the brain, spinal cord, muscles, tissues, blood pressure, and so much more. It carries out every single message to your brain and makes sure that your body is functioning properly. The nervous system is divided into two parts; central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. It is then divided into two main parts, autonomic nervous system and somatic nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system plays a vital role in sending and receiving messages to different parts of the body like heart, brain, gut, and digestion. The peripheral nervous system is located between your brain and spinal cord. Its nerves go from your head all the way to your neck and to the rest of your body. The peripheral nervous system takes care of our breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, gut health, and digestion.
Follow this article to explore more about what the peripheral nervous system does and what are the parts of the peripheral nervous system.
Table of Contents
What does the peripheral nervous system do?
The peripheral nervous system has many functions. It helps with digestion, it keeps your gut health in good health, and it keeps your heart rate in check. Aside from that, the following are things that the peripheral nervous system does.
- Natural processes
We all know that our senses are controlled by our brain but it is our peripheral nervous system that gives messages to the brain. Whether the news is good or bad, your peripheral nervous system will directly carry the message to your brain thus signaling your brain to give a response according to the environment.
The peripheral nervous system will make you react with the correct senses involved. This is only possible because the peripheral nervous system does it work properly and signals your brain to perform under the correct senses. Whether it is the sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, or hearing, each and everything is controlled by our peripheral nervous system.
Our peripheral nervous system makes sure that all of our muscles and bones are working properly. It signals the brain and the spinal cord to make sure our movements are natural and easy.
Like when you have to stand up, your peripheral nervous system will naturally command your brain to move your legs and make you stand up. This is only possible because your peripheral; nervous system gave signals to the brain which made the movements in your muscles possible.
The peripheral nervous system is also responsible for all the unconscious natural responses of a person. Like heart rate, blood pressure, brain chemicals, gut health, and digestion. All of these processes are done perfectly every single day just because of our peripheral nervous system.
Like when you eat something, the process of digestion starts naturally, you do not have to do anything. This happens because of your peripheral nervous system. It makes sure that everything is under control and there is mishap.
What are the parts of the peripheral nervous system?
The peripheral nervous system has many nerves and cells that connect with your head and spinal cord through your neck. But it is divided into two parts, following are the parts of the peripheral nervous system.
- Somatic nervous system
- Autonomic nervous system
- Sympathetic division
- Parasympathetic division
Somatic nervous system:
The somatic nervous system is that part of the peripheral nervous system that carries out information from the environment to the brain which then signals the senses. It passes information to the brain so the brain can signal the muscles and the senses to make a move. Like if you hear something loud in the background, your somatic nervous system will immediately alert the brain and it will empower your sense of hearing.
Autonomic nervous system:
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. Its main purpose is to make sure that everything happens smoothly and there is nothing to worry about.
It makes sure that all of the things are running without any disturbance. From a person’s heartbeat to their blood pressure and digestion everything is done automatically, which is why it has been named the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is further split into the following two parts.
- Sympathetic division
- Parasympathetic division
The sympathetic division alerts your body to external stimuli that may be threatening for the person. It immediately alerts the brain and activates its flight and fight response. In a case like this, the blood pressure will rise and the heartbeat will be fast. This indicates that the environment is unfamiliar and your body feels threatened. In a situation like this all of the bodily processes will slow down like digestion, heart rate, and breathing.
Parasympathetic division is something that starts working when there is no threat. When there is no danger to the life of a person only then, parasympathetic division will start working and signal the brain to come back to normal. It will bring the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure back to normal. This shows that everything is normal now and there is no threat to the person.
What are the main nerves in the peripheral nervous system?
Our entire body is made from different nerves that send and receive signals from the brain to different organs. The peripheral nervous system has some of the following main nerves that make sure that everything runs smoothly.
- Spinal nerve
- Sensory nerve
- Brachial nerve
- Cranial nerve
- Vagus nerve
- Sciatic nerve
- Lumbar plexus
- Accessory nerve
- Glossopharyngeal nerve
As the name suggests, the spinal nerve is connected with the spinal cord. It is responsible for sending and receiving messages from the brain, whether those messages are sensory or motor, it makes sure that everything is running smoothly. The spinal nerve is further divided into many different nerves that connect with the rest of the bodily organs.
The sensory nerve has little sensory fibers on it which makes sure that the brain signals the right sense and everything runs smoothly. All of the senses like hearing, taste, sight, touch, and smell are in those fibers and when the brain sends a signal only then, these senses are empowered.
The brachial nerves, also known as brachial plexus are a set of nerves that are located inside the throat. These nerves are further divided and are attached to different other nerves. Some nerves are attached to the spinal cord while some nerves are attached to the cervical nerves.
The cranial nerves are located inside the brain. These nerves are further divided into a set of nerves that are attached to the neck and head. These nerves make sure that things like vision, tasting, hearing, and smelling are done properly. Basically these nerves also work as sensory nerves.
The vagus nerves are located in the parasympathetic region of the peripheral nervous system. Basically it deals with things like regulating blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, digestion, and gut health. These nerves make sure that everything is running smoothly after the threat is over.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body which travels from the spinal cord all the way to the tip of your toes. These nerves are responsible for all the motor system that happens between the legs and the hip bones. The spinal cord makes sure that when the body has to perform any function that involves moving its legs and the hip bone, it is done smoothly.
The lumbar plexus is also attached to the brachial nerve. It is one of the many nerves that come from the throat. It also works as the sensory nerves that are attached to the abdominal nerves. Lumbar plexus has different branches that travel from the abdomen to pubic bone.
The accessory nerve is mainly attached to the spinal cord but it is also attached to the brain. Its main function is to send and receive signals from the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the muscles, organs, and the glands. The accessory nerve is more like a network that transfers each and every information.
The glossopharyngeal nerve is also known as the mixed nerve. Mainly it is responsible for taking care of the throat muscles. It also looks after every oral activity, especially the sense of taste. The movement of the jaw and the neck, each and everything is controlled by the glossopharyngeal nerve.
What are the diseases that are associated with the peripheral nervous system?
The peripheral nervous system works properly to make sure that all the sensory and motor operations are running smoothly inside the body. But there are a few diseases that can highly affect the peripheral nervous system. Following are the diseases that are associated with the peripheral nervous system.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Hansen’s disease
- Genetic conditions
- Medical procedures
Type 2 diabetes:
According to healthcare professionals, type 2 diabetes can slowly damage the nerves inside the peripheral nervous system. When a person with diabetes complains about not feeling anything in their feet and legs and their legs start to swell up, this is because the nerves in their legs are getting damaged because of the diabetes.
Mostly hansen’s disease affects your skin but according to research, it also deeply affects your peripheral nervous system. A person may not be able to register pain because of all the nerves and muscle damage inside the peripheral nervous system.
There is a possibility that when both or one of the parents have had any nerve disorder in the past or if they had diabetes then, there is a chance that it could also pass on to their children and they would pass it to their children.
There are infections like meningeal infection and diphtheria which can cause peripheral neuropathy. These infections can cause damage to the nerves present inside of the peripheral nervous system. According to scientists, these infections have a direct effect on the nerves in the peripheral division.
There are many surgeries that can have a direct effect on the nerves present inside the peripheral nervous system. Especially when a person is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment. Chemotherapy damages nerves that are there in the peripheral nervous system. The effects of chemotherapy can be pretty severe.
We all know that trauma can stay with a person for a long time. This long term trauma can also damage the nerves situated in the peripheral nervous system. The traumatic injuries can put a pressure on the nerves, making it difficult for them to function properly. This can lead to tumors and carpal tunnel syndrome.
How can you protect your peripheral nervous system?
Just like everything else, you can take care of your peripheral nervous system as well. Following are some things you can try to protect the peripheral nervous system.
- Balanced diet
- Being physically active
- Wear safety
- Manage your chronic illnesses
Eating a balanced diet is extremely supreme. If you want to look after your nerves and muscles then, it is supreme that you have a proper meal on time. You should have all the right vitamins and protein. Nothing should be less and nothing should be more. If your body has a lack of vitamin B12 and if vitamin B6 is in a heavy amount then, your nervous system will be highly affected.
Being physically active:
Physical exercise is important for each and everyone of us. Running in the morning can help you stretch your muscles and make you more physically active for the rest of the day. It is not good to sit idle at home, doing exercise can prevent any nerve damage that has been compressed.
The most supreme thing for you to remember is that you must always wear safety when needed. Like when you are riding a bike, skating, or climbing. This is to prevent any nerve and muscle damage you may get if you encounter an accident. It is always good to look after yourself so you do not have any regrets later on.
Manage your chronic illnesses:
If you are suffering from chronic illness like diabetes then, it is extremely important for you to listen to what your doctor has to say. Take your medications on time, follow a healthy diet, and do exercise recommended by your healthcare professional. This will help your nerves to not get worse and delay any serious effect.
The peripheral nervous system is one of the most supreme systems. It is a part of the nervous system and it is further divided into two more parts: somatic nervous system and autonomic system. Each and every nerve that is present in the peripheral nervous system is responsible for either the motor senses, senses, or natural processes. The peripheral nervous system makes sure that each and everything is working smoothly and there is no problem in anything. The movements of the body, the senses, digestion, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing each and everything is under control.
The peripheral nervous system has many nerves but most of these nerves are connected with the brain and the spinal cord. These nerves have sensory fibers that send and receive messages from the brain to different parts of the body. It is essential that no nerve damage is done otherwise it will directly affect a person’s peripheral nervous system. If you ever encounter an injury, do not let it go and consult a healthcare professional. It is always better to get it thoroughly checked and make sure that no nerve is damaged.