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All You Need to Know About Nerves

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The brain interprets messages sent by nerves and nerves can even send messages without you having to think about it.

Our nerves travel through and around the rest of the tissues in our body. Without our nerves we would not be able to feel the sensations we do. Think of the following examples:

  • The heat and cold of bath water
  • The tingling when you have laid on your arm too long
  • The light touch as a feather brushes against your skin
  • The sensation of stroking velvet backwards
  • Heavy pressure on our bottoms when we have been sitting too long.

All of these sensations are felt in the nerve endings in our body.


How do our nerves work?

They have lots of different and varied receptors in our tissues such as skin and muscles.

Nerves wait for the input from the outside world and when they get enough of the input, they send a message along their length to their other end via a series of channels. These messages are ‘read’ and ‘interpreted’ in the brain and the appropriate feeling is sent back down the nerve to where the feeling came from. We then feel this as either as a light touch, pressure, hot, cold or pain. There are lots of different messages being passed along different nerves and some of these messages send feelings, some send instructions to move and some send information about how that body part should act. Nerves even send information to your muscles without you even having to think about it. For instance, nerves will send a message to your hand to recoil if it has touched a hot surface which could potentially burn you.

Nerves have lots of layers to them.

This is to ensure that they get the protection they need, so they can move easily and also so that they can get the blood supply they need. Nerves need a good blood supply to make sure they can function and send their messages correctly. If they are not getting this good supply they can send their own messages to the brain, and the brain will send nerve pain back to ensure we realise we are irritating our nerves by limiting their blood supply. You might feel this as tingling, numbness or a burning sensation in the area of that nerve.

Nerves can travel large distances.

Nerves can travel large distances to take the messages from the brain to far off parts of our body such as our toes. They have to follow a winding path through the body to reach their destination – around bones, through tight space and between muscles. They need to be able to slide and glide round the corners and crevices they travel along, and they don’t like to be stopped from moving freely. This can sometimes be the trouble with things such as sciatica leg pain. A nerve that is travelling down the leg might be getting irritated or compressed along its path by a muscle, disc or bone, and it will inform the brain resulting in us feeling pain.

How can we help our nerves’ health?

Getting these nerves moving correctly and interacting with the tissues around it is essential to good nerve health. There are specific exercises you can do to get nerves moving well. These are called nerve gliding exercises. A physiotherapist will be able to show you how to do nerve gliding exercises correctly and safely.

Keeping your nerves healthy and happy means they send the correct messages and are able to work well. Keep your nerves healthy by exercising and moving regularly, eating healthy foods that encourage healthy nerves and not smoking. If you would like more advice about a nerve problem you might be experiencing give us a call on 020 7884 0374 or email