The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is a critical component of the overall nervous system that extends beyond the central nervous system (we talked about the CNS in last weeks email), which consists of the brain and spinal cord. The PNS encompasses the network of nerves and ganglia that connect the CNS to the rest of the body, facilitating communication between the brain and spinal cord and the various organs, muscles, and tissues throughout the body. It serves as a conduit for transmitting sensory information to the CNS and conveying motor commands from the CNS to the effectors, such as muscles and glands.
The components of the peripheral nervous system can be broadly categorized into two main divisions: the somatic (voluntary) nervous system and the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system.
1. Somatic Nervous System (SNS):
The somatic nervous system is responsible for regulating voluntary motor functions and processing sensory information related to the external environment. It controls skeletal muscles and facilitates conscious movement. Its primary components include:
– Somatic Sensory Neurons: These nerves transmit sensory information from the body’s sensory receptors (e.g., skin, muscles, joints) to the CNS, allowing us to perceive touch, temperature, pain, and proprioception (sense of body position, we went over this in the last email too).
– Somatic Motor Neurons: These nerves transmit motor commands from the CNS to skeletal muscles, enabling voluntary movements and muscle contractions.
2. Autonomic Nervous System (ANS):
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions and maintaining homeostasis. It controls processes such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, and glandular secretion. The ANS is further divided into two branches:
– Sympathetic Nervous System: This branch is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, which prepares the body for intense physical activity or emergency situations. It increases heart rate, dilates pupils, redirects blood flow to skeletal muscles, and inhibits functions like digestion.
– Parasympathetic Nervous System: This branch is responsible for the “rest and digest” response, promoting activities that conserve and restore energy. It slows down heart rate, constricts pupils, enhances digestion, and promotes bodily functions that occur during a relaxed state.
Additionally, the peripheral nervous system includes specialized structures called ganglia, which are clusters of nerve cell bodies located outside the CNS. These structures are integral to the peripheral nervous system and play a role in the integration and processing of sensory and motor information before it reaches the CNS. Ganglia are found along the pathway of nerves and can be influenced by mechanical and functional changes within the spine ie chiropractic adjustments.
Chiropractic adjustments involve controlled and precise forces applied to specific spinal segments with the goal of restoring proper alignment and function as illustrated in the list below.
1. **Nerve Impingement and Compression:** Subluxations can lead to nerve impingement or compression, affecting the transmission of nerve signals between ganglia and the CNS. Chiropractic adjustments aim to alleviate these mechanical disturbances by restoring normal spinal alignment, potentially reducing pressure on nerves and ganglia along the affected pathways.
2. **Neurological Reflexes:** Chiropractic adjustments may stimulate neurological reflexes that can influence ganglionic activity. Adjustments can trigger responses that affect the autonomic nervous system, potentially leading to changes in blood flow, muscle tone, and glandular function.
3. **Segmental Motion:** Chiropractic adjustments are thought to improve segmental motion in the spine. Enhanced motion can have a positive effect on nerve signaling and the overall function of ganglia. Improved joint mobility may contribute to better communication between PNS and the CNS.
4. **Pain Reduction:** Subluxations and dysfunctional spinal segments involving muscle spasm can contribute to pain. Pain perception involves complex interactions between sensory nerves, ganglia, and the CNS.
The peripheral nervous system works in close coordination with the central nervous system to ensure proper communication and coordination of bodily functions. This intricate network of nerves and ganglia facilitates the transmission of information and enables the body to respond effectively to internal and external stimuli. All of which can be modulated and changed with the proper use of animal chiropractic adjustments.