Your body works like a complex feedback system. In this system, your brain uses sensory information to control your body. For example, to pick up an object, your brain uses information from your eyes and fingers to understand the location of the object and where your hand needs to move to reach it.
A nerve injury disrupts this system. Your nerves are the wires that carry the signals. When they malfunction, these signals get garbled or dropped. As a result, you might suffer disabilities that prevent you from performing even simple tasks. If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s essential to understand more about nerve damage.
What Does the Nervous System Do?
Your nervous system connects your brain to your body. Nerve cells, called neurons, carry impulses using a combination of electrical and chemical signals.
The electrical portion of the signal is provided by sodium ions inside the neuron. These ions change the neuron’s electrical charge and activate it.
The chemical portion of the signal comes from neurotransmitters. These chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, carry messages between neurons. The combination formed by the pattern of electrical activation and the chemical message determines the signal being delivered by the nerve to the brain, organ, or muscle.
Types of Nerve Damage
Your nervous system has two parts. The central nervous system (CNS) includes your brain and spinal cord. The brain generates and receives nerve signals, while the spinal cord carries all the signals between your brain and your body below your neck.
The peripheral nervous system (PNS) contains the rest of your nerves. These nerves carry nerve signals between the CNS to your muscles and organs. They also carry sensory signals from your sense organs to your CNS.
Your PNS includes:
- Nerve roots branching from your spinal cord, carrying nerve signals to body sections
- Peripheral nerves branching from nerve roots, connecting them to specific nerve endings
- Cranial nerves connecting your brain to your face, head, and vital organs
The term “nerve damage” usually refers to an injury to the structures of the PNS, not the CNS. If you injure the CNS, your doctor will usually diagnose you with a brain injury or spinal cord injury rather than nerve damage. To reinforce this point, doctors often use the term “peripheral neuropathy” to describe nerve damage.
How Does Nerve Damage Happen?
Nerve damage can result from three types of nerve injuries:
When nerves get severed, they cannot carry signals. The electrical and chemical signals cannot jump the gap formed by a laceration. As a result, a lacerated nerve will cause paralysis below the level of the injury because motor signals cannot reach their destination. You will also lose all sensation below the level of the injury since the sensory signals never reach the brain.
A deep cut can lacerate nerves. Thus, a construction accident in which a saw blade slices into your arm can sever peripheral nerves. Lacerations can also happen from the inside. If you fracture a bone, the sharp end of the bone can lacerate nerves.
Lacerated nerves do not heal. Doctors can sometimes repair them with a nerve graft that bridges the gap in the nerve.
Traction happens when nerves get stretched. Stretched nerves cannot carry signals correctly. The neurons can get damaged or pulled apart, causing the signals to get lost or garbled.
Traction can result from a hyperextension injury. For example, a common birth injury happens when doctors pull too hard on an infant’s arm during delivery. The hyperextension of the shoulder stretches the brachial plexus nerve bundle, producing nerve damage that weakens or paralyzes the baby’s arm.
Stretched nerves will not heal. Again, doctors can sometimes repair them with a nerve graft.
Nerve compression happens when something presses on the nerve and causes it to inflame. The swollen nerve misfires, producing a range of errant nerve signals.
Nerve compression can happen whenever bones or connective tissues dislocate. It can also occur when soft tissues swell. The symptoms caused by a herniated disc happen when the deformed disc presses on a nerve root. The nerve root inflames and causes pain and other symptoms in your limbs.
Unlike severed or stretched nerves, compressed nerves do not suffer permanent damage. Doctors can treat compressed nerves by relieving the compression or reducing the nerve inflammation.
This means that doctors have two options for treating the nerve damage caused by a herniated disc. Doctors can perform a discectomy. This operation relieves pressure on the nerve root by removing the herniated disc. But doctors can also inject anti-inflammatories into the nerve root to calm the inflammation and prevent the nerve from misfiring.
What Are Some Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
Nerves carry three types of signals. As a result, how nerve damage symptoms manifest will depend on the location and purpose of the nerve:
Autonomic Nerve Signals
Autonomic nerve signals control your involuntary responses, like your circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems.
When you damage a nerve that carries autonomic nerve signals, you may experience:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Abnormal blood pressure
- Inability to sweat
- Sexual dysfunction
Autonomic nerve signals also help you pass waste. When you damage nerves running to your bladder or bowels, you may experience incontinence.
Motor Nerve Signals
Motor nerve signals control your muscles.
When the nerves carrying these signals get injured, you can suffer from symptoms such as:
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of dexterity
Paralysis can affect both the contraction and extension of muscles. Thus, damage to the cranial nerve responsible for your facial expressions might cause your face to sag, leaving you permanently disfigured.
Sensory Nerve Signals
Sensory signals carry sense impressions to the brain.
When these signals get disrupted, you may experience:
- Tingling or buzzing
- Loss of vision, hearing, smell, or taste
The frustrating part about this form of nerve damage is that the symptoms often do not occur in the injured body part. Instead, they occur below the level of the injury. For example, a herniated disc in your neck will often cause pain and numbness in your shoulder or arm.
Can I Get Compensation For Nerve Damage?
You can often seek compensation for nerve damage that resulted from someone else’s negligent or intentional actions. This means that you can pursue a personal injury claim even if the other person did not intend that you would suffer nerve damage. As long as they acted with the necessary intent or negligence, they may bear liability for the injuries you suffered.
Nerve damage can lead to physical disabilities that interfere with your ability to work or even care for yourself. As recognized leaders in personal injury law, the compassionate and courageous team at Zaner Harden Law has secured millions of dollars in compensation for injury victims.
Contact Zaner Harden Law for a free consultation to discuss your nerve damage injury in Denver and the compensation you may be eligible for today.