When your nervous system suffers an injury, you can experience a wide range of symptoms. Since your nerves are responsible for controlling your body and providing input to the brain, nerve damage can cause symptoms ranging from numbness to incontinence.
Unfortunately, nerves do not regenerate. As a result, nerve damage will often produce permanent symptoms. Doctors can sometimes relieve the effects of nerve damage, but in many cases, you will live the rest of your life with your damaged nerves and the health issues they cause.
What Is the Function of the Nervous System?
You have two parts to your nervous system: The central nervous system (CNS) produces control signals and carries these signals to your body, working with your brain and spinal cord.
The peripheral nervous system (PNS) includes everything else. It connects your CNS to individual muscles, nerve endings, and organs. The PNS includes:
The nerves in your face, head, and neck do not connect to your spinal cord. Instead, they connect directly to your brain.
Some of the functions controlled by the cranial nerves include:
- Touch sensations from the face and scalp
- Facial expressions
Your cranial nerves also control the movement of your face and head, from blinking your eyes to chewing.
Your spinal cord runs through the spinal canal, which is formed by openings in your 24 vertebrae. Above and below each vertebra, the spinal cord branches into a pair of nerve roots that carry all the nerve signals for a body region.
Each nerve root in a pair runs to an opposing side of your body. Thus, one nerve root in a pair that branches in your neck will run to your right arm while the other runs to your left arm.
Nerve roots further branch into peripheral nerves.
These nerves connect to:
- Nerve endings in the skin to capture touch sensations
- Muscles to control your body’s movement
- Organs to control their operation
The term “nerve damage” usually refers to damage to the nerves of the PNS. Terms for damage to the CNS include spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.
How Does Nerve Damage Happen?
Nerve damage can result from disease or trauma. Traumatic nerve damage can result from:
The mildest and most common form of nerve damage comes from compression. When nerves get compressed, the body triggers inflammation. An inflamed nerve will misfire, producing pain and other symptoms.
Suppose that you injured your back in a car accident. A bulging or herniated disc can press on a nerve root near the injury site. This compression causes the nerve root to inflame, producing symptoms in the body region connected to the nerve root.
These symptoms may seem to radiate from the injury site into uninjured body parts. For example, compression on a nerve root in your lumbar spine may cause numbness, weakness, and pain in your leg, even though your leg suffered no injury in your accident.
Traction on a nerve causes it to stretch. When a nerve stretches, the nerve cells can get damaged, causing them to drop nerve signals or misfire.
Traffic accidents (such as commercial truck collisions) can cause severe whiplash when your body whips back and forth under the force of the accident. This intense motion can stretch nerves in your neck and back, leading to nerve damage symptoms.
Nerves are like electrical wires. They carry signals from cell to cell using charged particles. But when nerves get severed, the cells cannot detect signals across the laceration, and the signal is lost.
Almost any type of accident can result in lacerations deep enough to sever nerves. For example, a workplace accident involving a cutting tool could sever the nerves, leading to nerve damage below the injury site.
What Are Some Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
Nerve damage produces a wide range of symptoms, depending on the nerve signals that get disrupted by the injury. Your PNS has three types of nerves, each producing different symptoms when they suffer an injury:
Autonomic nerves carry signals to your organs to keep them running. These nerve signals do not require any conscious thought. Instead, they travel to and from your brain automatically.
When you suffer autonomic nerve damage, you may experience changes in your:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Sexual arousal
You may also have difficulty controlling your bowel or bladder.
Motor nerves connect muscles to your nervous system. These nerve signals tell your body how and when to move.
Motor nerve damage can produce:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Loss of fine motor control
Sometimes, your brain can reconstruct the map it uses to control your body. This neuroplasticity can allow your brain to use intact nerves to control areas formerly handled by damaged nerves.
Sensory nerves carry sensory input to the brain. When sensory signals get disrupted, you might experience diminished vision, hearing, taste, or smell.
You might also experience other symptoms relating to your senses, including:
- Loss of balance
Without sensory input, your brain will have difficulty controlling your body. For example, numbness in your legs may cause you to walk with a limp because your brain will not know when your foot has contacted the ground.
What Compensation Can You Pursue for Nerve Damage?
You can pursue compensation for nerve damage. To get compensation, you must show that someone else’s actions led to your injury. If you can prove liability, you can recover compensation for your economic and non-economic losses.
In cases of nerve damage, you could face significant economic damages from the treatment and therapy you require for injuries. You may also lose significant income if your nerve injuries prevent you from working.
You may also have non-economic damages. Nerve damage causes permanent symptoms, which means you can lose the ability to work or participate in activities you enjoy. You may even suffer from chronic pain.
Nerve damage can significantly impact your quality of life. You might experience symptoms that disable you from working, participating in activities, or sleeping comfortably.
Contact Kenny Habetz Injury Law for a free consultation to discuss the compensation you may be entitled to seek for your nerve damage.