Healthy Beginnings

Nerve Functioning and Your Health


Part 1 of a 3-Part Series on the Function of the Nervous System

The spinal cord is made up of 31 pairs of spinal nerves. In this first part of the series, I will be focusing on the neck and head area of the spine.

“The cervical
spine (sometimes abbreviated as c-spine in the medical world) begins at the base of the skull. Seven vertebrae make up the cervical spine with eight pairs of cervical nerves.
The individual cervical vertebrae are abbreviated C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. The cervical nerves are also abbreviated; they are C1 through C8.”1

“The nervous system controls and coordinates
all organs and structures of
the human body. Misalignments of the spinal vertebrae and disc may cause irritation to the nervous system and affect the structures, organs and functions which may result in the conditions or symptoms.” 2

Each level of the spine has two nerve roots – one on the right and one on the left side the spinal cord – where they exit the spinal canal through a hole called the foramina, which
is made between the two vertebrae. At this level is where they get their name. The C5/ C6 vertebrae area is where the C6 nerve exits.

Our nerves provide control and sensation to different parts of the body based on
the spinal level from where they exit the vertebrae. Looking more specifically at the cervical spine nerves and their function:

C1, C2 and C3 (the first three cervical nerves) control the head and neck, including movements forward, backward and to the sides. These nerves also play key roles in breathing. The C2 dermatome handles sensation for the upper part of the head, and the C3 dermatome covers the side of the face and behind the head. “A spinal cord injury and nerve damage at these levels are most serve in nature.” 3 This is the area of the spine where Christopher Reeves, formerly known as Superman, broke his neck. If you have irritations to these nerves you could be possibly having symptoms like high blood pressure, nervousness, headaches, migraines, dizziness and chronic tiredness, to name a few.

C4 helps control the shoulders as well as the diaphragm – the sheet of muscle that stretches to the bottom of the rib cage – for breathing. The C4 dermatome covers the neck and top of the shoulders.
An irritation at this level may cause: hearing loss, hay fever or allergy symptoms.

C5 controls upper body muscles like the deltoids (which form the rounded contours of the shoulders) and the biceps (which allow flexion of the elbow and rotation of the forearm). The C5 dermatome covers the shoulders and outer part of the arm down to about the elbow or close to the wrist. An irritation at this point may cause: laryngitis, hoarseness and sore throats.

C6 controls the wrist extensors that control wrist extension and hyperextension, and also provides some innervation to the biceps. The C6 dermatome covers the top of the shoulders and runs down the side of the arm and into the thumb side of the hand. An irritation at this level may cause: stiff neck and shoulders, coughing
and tonsillitis.

C7 controls the triceps (the
large muscle on the back
of the arm that allows for straightening of the elbow). The C7 dermatome goes from the shoulder down the back of the arm and into the middle finger. An irritation to this level may cause: thyroid conditions, colds and bursitis.

C8 controls the hands. The C8 dermatome covers the lower part of the shoulder and goes down the arm into the pinky side of the hand. An irritation at this level may cause: asthma, coughing, difficult breathing, shortness of breath and pain in the lower arm and hands area. 1,2

When these highly sensitive cervical nerves are irritated from injuries, poor posture, sleeping wrong, stress, herniated disc and stenosis (a narrowing of the foramina), to name a few, they can cause neck pain and other symptoms, as noted above.

It is always best to keep these nerves functioning at their best to help keep you at your optimum health. You should have them checked by a doctor to help prevent future problems, or to rule out any symptoms you may be experiencing now.

For more information, call Jensen Chiropractic at (775) 232-1222.


  1. anatomy/cevical-spine- anatomy-neck
  2. Alliedphysiciansandrehabcom. clients/8467/documents/ symptoms-questionaire
  3. condiotions /spine-anatomy/ cervical-nerves