Spinal Nerves: Terminology

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  • 0:01 Sensory, Motor,&…
  • 0:22 Peripheral Nervous System
  • 0:44 Spinal Nerve Nomenclature
  • 1:40 Spinal Nerve Function
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson outlines the locations, names, and general functions of the spinal nerves related to the skin, muscles, joints, and internal organs as well as sensation.

Sensory, Motor, and Autonomic Signals

Move your leg. Now, pinch your arm. Did you feel that pain? The motor and sensory signals that are carried between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the rest of the body partially rely on the spinal nerves of the peripheral nervous system. Here, we're going to discuss their nomenclature and location.

Peripheral Nervous System and Spinal Nerves

The peripheral nervous system is the portion of the nervous system that extends away from the center of the body and is located outside of the brain and spinal cord. One major part of this system are the spinal nerves, 31 pairs of nerves connected to the spinal cord that are numbered at the level at which they emerge and are named based on the area of the body they innervate.

Spinal Nerve Nomenclature and Location

As I just said, the spinal nerves are named for the region of the body they innervate. There are eight cervical pairs of spinal nerves. The term cervical comes from 'cervico-', which means neck. So, these guys innervate the neck.

Below them are 12 thoracic pairs of spinal nerves. 'Thoraco-' stands for the chest. So, these guys innervate the region of the chest.

After the thoracic spinal nerves come five lumbar pairs of spinal nerves. Have you ever heard of lumbar support? What region of the body does this refer to? It's the lower back, and that's where these spinal nerves come out of.

Then there are five sacral pairs of spinal nerves. The sacrum is a triangular bone right below the lumbar vertebrae. The sacral spinal nerves originate from the spinal cord at the level of this bone. Finally, there is one lonely pair of coccygeal spinal nerves, which lies over the coccyx, or tailbone.

Spinal Nerve Function

As I sort of implied in my intro, the spinal nerves serve two general functions:

  • They relay sensory information to the central nervous system
  • And they send motor signals to the regions of the body they innervate

In fact, there are four general types of functional components to the spinal nerves. They include:

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