Your body is made up of a variety of different systems that work to keep you happy, healthy, and functioning normally. Of these systems, the nervous system is perhaps the most important because it tells all of the other systems to work.
However, this is a very basic explanation that doesn’t capture just how vital your nervous system is to your entire health — nor does it address what you can do to take care of it. In today’s post, we are going to explore the different functions and specialized systems within the entire nervous system, as well as how your spine and joint alignment play a part.
If you’ve been struggling with health issues related to your nervous system (including pain, numbness, tingling, etc), visiting a chiropractor may be the solution. At Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria, we offer ongoing, personalized chiropractic care to address certain health issues and to help you maintain your overall health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, and continue reading for more information about how a chiropractor can help you achieve a healthier nervous system.
General Nervous System Function
As we mentioned, the nervous system tells all of the other body systems when and how to work. It does this by receiving information from different parts of the body, processing that information, and communicating back with those parts of the body. These functions are broken into three steps: sensory, integration, and motor.
1. Sensory Function
The body contains sensory receptors that monitor both the internal and external conditions of the body. This information is passed along in the form of sensory signals to the central nervous system for processing.
Different organs specifically function as sensory receptors.Your eyes, taste buds, and olfactory organs (like the nose and ears) gather information about sight, taste, smell, sound, and balance. Sensory receptors for sensations like touch, temperature, and pain exist in the skin and throughout the body.
2. Integration Function
The integration function is the next step after the sensory receptors have sent signals to the brain and spinal cord. Specialized cells called afferent neurons, as well as nerves, interpret these signals. They evaluate and compare these signals, as well as decide what to do with the information. These cells are responsible for decision making, remembering this information, or discarding it.
The integration process takes place in the gray matter of the brain and spinal cord. Cells called interneurons oversee this function and create intricate networks so that you can process information and make decisions almost instantly.
3. Motor Function
Once signals have been processed during integration, efferent neurons (also called motor neurons) are stimulated to create a reaction. These efferent neurons can signal a variety of tissues in the body to respond.
The response could be something that you’re conscious of, like moving a part of your body, or it could be something you’re unaware of entirely, like an organ releasing a hormone.
The Divisions of Your Nervous System
With so many important functions taking place around the body, it’s no wonder that it’s important to maintain a healthy nervous system. To further understand how to take care of your nervous system, though, it’s important to understand the different divisions of the nervous system and the different parts of the body that make up those divisions.
Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord. It is “central” because it receives all the signals from the body’s sensory receptors. It uses this information to make decisions that will keep the body healthy and functioning.
On top of making these types of decisions, the central nervous system is in charge of functions like language, creativity, expression, emotions, and your personality. Your central nervous system is in charge of your consciousness and determines who you are as a person.
Continue reading to learn more about the function of your nervous system, and how a chiropractor can help ensure a healthy system.
Peripheral Nervous System
Your peripheral nervous system includes the nerves and sensory receptors throughout the rest of your body outside of the brain and spinal cord.
Somatic Nervous System
The somatic nervous system is the part of the peripheral nervous system that you’re aware of. It sends messages to move skeletal muscles muscles in the body, making it the only conscious part of the PNS.
Autonomic Nervous System
Other messages that the PNS sends that you are unaware of belong to the autonomic nervous system. This division of the nervous system works subconsciously to keep your heart beating, your lungs expanding and contracting, and the other tissues in your body functioning. The types of messages that the ANS sends either stimulate or calm the body, and are broken down into two divisions: sympathetic and parasympathetic.
The sympathetic division of the ANS is responsible for our “fight or flight” response. This division of signals allows us to respond to stress, danger, excitement, emotions, embarrassment, and exercise.
The sympathetic division responds to these by increasing our heart rates and breath; releasing adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones; and stops digestion so that your body can use all of its energy to respond to the stressor.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, thankfully, is the parasympathetic division. The parasympathetic division of the ANS is often referred to as our “rest and digest” response. It works to slow down what the sympathetic division stimulated.
The parasympathetic division works to slow your heart rate, calm your breath, flush toxins out of your system, and stimulate digestion to eliminate waste.
Enteric Nervous System
Outside of sympathetic and parasympathetic influence, our digestive system works almost entirely independently thanks to the enteric nervous system. The ENS regulates digestion and the function of all of our digestive organs.
What’s amazing about the ENS is that it contains almost as many neurons as the spinal cord. This is why it’s often referred to as the “brain of the gut” or even the body’s “second brain.” And with such a large chunk of our nervous system devoted to regulating the function of our digestion, it’s no wonder there’s such a focus on the health of this body system and how practitioners like chiropractors can help.
The Relationship Between the Nervous System and the Spine
With a better understanding of how much the nervous system controls, what do you do with this information? While it may seem overwhelming to know that most of our body systems function entirely without us being aware of it, there are steps you can take to do your part in helping your nervous system function properly.
As we’ve mentioned, the central nervous system contains your spinal cord, which is protected by the vertebrae in your spine. Each vertebrae surrounds a different section of the spinal cord that communicates with specific parts and organs in your body. When your spine is perfectly aligned, like after an adjustment from a chiropractor, your spinal cord can receive, interpret, and send signals unencumbered. If, however, you have a misaligned vertebra, you could experience pain, discomfort, and other issues as parts of your body struggle to function from the nervous system under pressure.
Protect Your Spine, Protect Your Nervous System
There are many things you can do to protect your body from illness and injury. Regular exercises and stretching will keep your skeletal muscles strong and flexible. On top of this though, seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis can also ensure that your spine and the rest of the joints in your body are properly aligned.
Not only will a chiropractor make the necessary adjustments to realign your spine, but they may also prescribe massage to help relax the muscles that are compensating for this misalignment, as well as teach you stretches and exercises to help strengthen the muscles around weaker spots in your back, neck, and shoulders.
If you have a misalignment in your spine, it’s important for the overall functionality of your nervous system — and your body — to treat it. A chiropractor can set up a chiropractic care plan based on your current health and condition. Your care plan will be customized to you, but generally a chiropractor will want to see you regularly until your symptoms have subsided, and then as needed when issues arise.
If you’re experiencing symptoms related to a compromised immune system, a misaligned spine could be responsible. If you’re in need of a chiropractor, schedule a consultation with one of our providers today at Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria. We care about your overall health, and we’re here to help you live life well.