Have you ever heard the analogy of our nervous system as a highway of communication in our bodies? Well, this month we wanted to bring to your attention the different types of information that is being communicated via these pathways.
If we expand on that analogy, you can start to imagine our spinal cord (big bundle of nerves continuing from the brain into our back) as the main highway. From there, there are exits that lead to further roads and creates pathways. There are lots different forms of vehicles carrying different information on this highway. Some are carrying our ability to sense hot/cold or sharp/dull. Some are carrying messages from the brain telling our muscles how to move and others are taking messages to the brain giving it information about what is happening in our body.
In a general sense, the highway (spinal cord) further divides into two smaller exits (roots). The one at the front of the spine is carrying information that goes to our muscles and the one in the back is carrying information from our body going to the brain.
Further away from the spine, these nerves are combining into one carrying multiple types of information. The path that these nerves take is somewhat predictable and has helped us create a map on our body showing us what nerve is controlling what action. The map of the muscles these nerves control is called the myotome (myo = muscle) whereas the map of our sensation on our skin is called the dermatome (dermis = skin).
This is tremendously helpful when patients are complaining of weakness in muscles or altered sensation in different parts of the body. Following these maps, we are able to distinguish which nerves are involved and further investigate what part of the spine needs to be treated to help the body function the way it is supposed to.
Over the next few blogs, we will go into the details of what these maps look like in different parts of our bodies.