There are two large categories of nerves in the human body, motor nerves and sensory nerves. The vast majority of both motor and sensory nerves originate in the spinal cord and exit from the spinal column to travel throughout the body. However, everyone has 12 pairs of very special nerves that bypass the spinal cord and originate directly from the brain. These cranial nerves are responsible for important sensations and movements, but – like all nerves – can suffer from injury.
Here’s a look into how the cranial nerves help with function after catastrophic injury. We’ll also examine the role of each cranial nerve and how chiropractic treatment can help in the event of a cranial nerve injury.
A Failsafe System for the Body
As you likely know, trauma or disease that affects the spinal cord may lead to paralysis. If the problem occurs at one of the upper levels of the spinal cord, quadriplegia (the inability to move any of the four limbs) can result. However, nerve signals can still travel to the vital organs. This is possible because cranial nerves innervate the vital organs, and these nerves do not stem from the spinal cord.
Cranial Nerve Functions
Here is a list of the 12 cranial nerves along with brief outlines of their functions.
- I Olfactory: Along with cranial nerve II, the olfactory nerve exits from the cerebrum, the main body of the brain. The remaining ten cranial nerves all arise from the brainstem. The olfactory nerve is responsible for the sense of smell.
- II Optic: This nerve makes vision possible.
- III Oculomotor: This nerve allows for dilation and constriction of the pupils as well as some eye movements.
- IV Trochlear: The trochlear nerve is also responsible for certain eye movements.
- V Trigeminal: This nerve takes care of sensation in the face as well as the movement of the muscles used in chewing.
- VI Abducens: Another nerve that controls eye movement, the abducens is responsible for outward gaze.
- VII Facial: The facial nerve is responsible for taste, facial expressions, and facial glands.
- VIII Vestibulocochlear: This nerve controls hearing and balance.
- IX Glossopharyngeal: Along with the facial nerve, this cranial nerve is responsible for taste and control of some glands.
X Vagus: This crucial cranial nerve controls many of the thoracic organs like the heart, lungs, and digestive tract.
- XI Accessory: This nerve controls the movement of certain muscles in the neck and upper back.
- XII Hypoglossal: Tongue movements are controlled by this cranial nerve.
When cranial nerve function is impaired by disease or injuries, chiropractic care can be invaluable. Although cranial nerves do not travel through the spine, they can still become pinched or trapped. Chiropractic release, along with other non-invasive treatment modalities, can offer gentle methods of restoring function and sensation.
If you’re experiencing unexplained symptoms or have been told that you have a cranial nerve issue, consider involving your chiropractor. They may be able to offer relief.