Nerves: What Are They and Do We Really Need Them?

30 May 2021

When we hear the word nerve – some may think about the shocked or disapproving expression describing the audacity of an action – “you’ve got a lot of nerve doing something like that!”. On the other hand, others may relate to the feeling of nervousness and being “a bundle of nerves”. But what exactly are nerves and what function do they serve? Do we actually need them and would we be better off without them? We have the answer to all of these questions in this article!

The Nervous System


Nerves are present in your entire body and they make up the nervous system. The nervous system is categorized into 2 main components – the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

Central Nervous System

The central nervous system comprises of the brain and spinal cord. It acts as the main headquarters of the nervous system and controls most of our body’s functions. The central nervous system coordinates all incoming and outgoing signals. It is in charge of sending signals correctly to the rest of the body, such as the organs, skin, and muscles. Think of the central nervous system as the main sorting facility in your local postal service. Its main job is to collect all the mail and sort it out according to the destination. The central nervous system makes sure that the signals are not lost and get delivered to the correct destination.

Peripheral Nervous System

The peripheral nervous system consists of all the nerves that fall outside of the central nervous system. Their main function is to help deliver signals from the central nervous system to the rest of the body and vice versa. Referring back to the analogy of the local postal service, the peripheral nervous system is like the mailmen who deliver mail from the sorting facility to the intended destination.

3 Functions of Peripheral Nerves

There are 3 different types of nerves and they are responsible for different functions:

Autonomic Nerves

Autonomic nerves are responsible for the unconscious or seemingly automatic functions of the body. For example, body processes like breathing, digestion, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. They stimulate certain body processes after receiving signals from the brain about the body or external environment. For example, increasing heart rate when your brain determines that you may be in danger.

Sensory Nerves

Sensory nerves are responsible for carrying sensory signals, such as the 5 senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. They help us to interpret our external environment and form our perception of the world. For instance, our sensory nerves can help us interpret our surroundings as dangerous. This could happen when we see others running away from something or hear people screaming. The danger signal sent to the brain triggers other signals sent to other parts of the body.

Motor Nerves

Motor nerves are connected to the muscles in our body and are responsible for movement by sending signals and impulses from the brain. In other words, they help us with simple day to day activities such as walking or using our hands.

Do we really need them?

To answer the question, the answer is a resounding YES. Without nerves, we wouldn’t be able to function normally. An injury to a sensory nerve could potentially cause your body to experience pain for no reason at all. Likewise, an injured motor nerve could mean that you are unable to use your muscles normally.

Since nerves are so important to our daily function – how do they get injured and can we prevent that from happening? In our next article, we share how nerves can get injured and the symptoms of an injury. If you have further questions or would like to consult with a physiotherapist, do give us a call or drop us a message and we’d be happy to help!