Spinal Nerves

When You Want to Know MoreHere is more information about your nerves, spine and back:

The nervous system is divided into two systems. The Central Nervous System which is the brain and the spinal cord, and the Peripheral Nervous System which is the 12 cranial nerves, 31 pairs of spinal nerves and ganglia. The Peripheral Nervous System provides communication between the brain and spinal cord and the body’s muscles, glands and sensory receptors.

The spinal cord is the continuation of the brainstem, it lies protected within the vertebral column of the spine. A spinal nerve is any of the 31 pairs of nerves that arise from the spinal cord. The spinal nerves are named according to where it emerges and passes through the bones in the spinal vertebrae. As you can see in the image to the left, the nerve roots (in red) come off the spinal cord and out to the rest of the body between the vertebra. Most of the spinal nerves exit at the vertebrae that protects it, however, the C1 nerve exits above the C1 vertebra and the sacral and coccygeal nerves exit at these bones.

The 31 Pairs of Spinal Nerves

  • 8 cervical (C1-C8) nerves emerge from the cervical spine; cervical means of the neck (there are 8 cervical nerves, but only 7 cervical vertebra)
  • 12 thoracic (T1-T12) nerves emerge from the thoracic spine; thoracic means of the chest
  • 5 lumbar (L1-L5) nerves emerge from the lumbar spine; lumbar means from the lower back region
  • 5 sacral (S1-S5) nerves emerge from the sacral bone; sacral means of the sacrum, the bony plate at the base of the vertebral column
  • 1 coccygeal nerve emerge from the coccygeal bone; coccygeal means of the coccyx, the tailbone

Each spinal nerve is attached to the spinal cord by two roots: a dorsal (back, posterior) sensory root and a ventral (front, anterior) motor root . The fibers of the sensory root carry sensory impulses to the spinal cord—pain, temperature, touch and position sense (proprioception)—from tendons, joints and body surfaces. The motor roots carry impulses from the spinal cord.The nerves carry messages to and from the skin of specific body regions called dermatomes.

Dermatome Map of Upper Limb (Shoulder, Arm, and Hand)

Dermatomes of the right shoulder, arm and hand.

Nerve Plexus

The spinal nerves exit the spinal cord and pass through the intervertebral foramen, then divides into four branches, or networks, called plexuses.

  • Cervical Plexus – the cervical plexus supply the neck and shoulders
  • Brachial Plexus – the brachial plexus supplies the arm and upper back
  • Lumbar Plexus – lumbar plexus supplies the abdomen and leg muscles
  • Sacral Plexus – the sacral plexus provides nerves to the back of the thigh, most of the lower leg, the entire foot in part of the pelvis.

Relation of Spinal Nerves to Vertebrae

Relation of Spinal Nerves to Vertebrae


  1. Cheryl Avery says

    10/1/16 I experienced a sudden pain in the small of my back & behind both thighs. Within 2-3 minutes I collapsed & was unable to move my lower extremities. After PT I am able to walk in a pool! I still have no sensation to heat or cold, I have touch but minimal pain, other than resent (?) nerve pain in my lower legs. What nerve was damaged? The MRI suggested plaque traveled from my aorta and lodged on a nerve, damaging the anterior portion of my spinalcord. Unfortunately I don’t recall the doctor that cared for me at Northwestern in Chicago. I am 71. 2/20/48

  2. Robert Cherry says

    I have had nerve damage in my lower limbs for over 4 years now I have degenerative vertebrae in my neck c4-7 I had a bycicle accident and landed on my neck which caused the nerve damage in my limb’s I also have a tingling sensation in my lower arms and fingers I had spinal cord damage as well but that was only slightly damaged but my problem is when I walk my legs get very weak and I feel the nerves in my legs getting worse as time goes by what is a person supposed to do if your go doesn’t seem to know what to do

  3. I have 2 nerves that are “crushed” according to my dr. One full report actually says obliterated. A ton of shoulder and arm pain in one the other is just numb and almost done like dead weight. I have to wait until Sept for surgery due to specific reasons. What can I do in the mean time? Also, chin to chest, the cervical spine physically hurts.

  4. Nur Mohammad says

    My uncle got an accident a few days before(20-22days). He injured in his cervical spine vertebrae most probably C1 or C2. He is suffering from respiratory distress. The doctor said he could not able to move his body parts again, in summary, they called it paralyzed. Moreover, they said his body condition will be decreased day by day. His body parts are damaging and eventually, all the body parts will be damaged soon. Currently is at ICU taking full life support. he could survive without life support. The doctor also said within a few days he will be no more. Is there any treatment for this problem. We are feeling helpless as he is only 36 years old.

  5. Patricia Martin, the symptoms you’re experiencing are consistent with perineural or Tarlov Cyst Disease. These “cysts” are not your typical cysts that can just be removed. They’re a herniation of the dura (outer layer of spinal cord)) and are filled with spinal fluid. The cysts develop on nerve roots, and therefore are part of the nerve and cannot be removed. They have to be surgically drained and wrapped by one of the three tc specialists in the country. You can find more information about them on the Tarlov Cyst Disease Foundation website. The only thing you’re experiencing that is not consistent with tc’s are the knots everywhere. Tc’s can’t be felt because they are deep within the spine. However because the nerves affect a lot of different things, they can cause muscle spasms, knots, etc. I suggest that you get an mri of your sacrum/pelvis with and without contrast to check for Tarlov cysts.

  6. I have pain in my shoulder blade and arm when I turn my head to the right, it says to sit on your right hand and turn head to the left and right and it will relieve the pain, which it dose but if im not doing that its still happens what can I do to make it go away permanently.

  7. Patricia Burnice Martin says

    Half way down my spine I have these small knots either next to my spine or several inches from my spine I believe is comming from the nerves in my spine. I get severe pain in my legs to the point I have dreams of not being able to walk. I thought there was 9 of those knots but as far down as my tail bone I have those and if I stretch my legs I can feel equally bad pain on the back inner side of my thighs, so i began pushing around the area tring to locate the pain and I found many more of those knots from below my behind all the way down to my knee, omg so painful. They are definitely all over my nerves comming down my legs. My legs swell and my hand and feet, legs and arms off fall asleep with tingling . I get sharp pains shooting down my legs and often my legs feel like they are on fire. It’s a struggle to walk but I have no choice to work , anyone with any ideas what those knots are or what may be my issue? Appreciate any help.

  8. Can a large disc bulge (C5-C6) and a moderate one (C6-C7) and pinching nerve cause your appetite to change? I had a bad viral infection back in August and was out sick for a week and a half. After that I didn’t want to eat the same foods anymore. So many things that I used to like to eat sound gross now, to include beer, which I loved the taste of before. I’m not sure how my disc became this way, I’ve had neck pain since Jun of 18, but when I was sick, I threw up so hard I’m not sure if that didn’t cause the disc to bulge. Either way, I’m not sure what caused my appetite to change. Any thoughts?

  9. Justin oliphant says

    Middle aged male I have been through the ringer.4 years ago was diagnosed with palsy in left hand.Had a tendon swap surgery. After a year the left hand wouldn’t open. The so s months of P.T. nothing was going my way. Then was receiving steroid injections,,pinpiont, in shoulders Roto cuff. Nothing. The pain was.moderate and I was taking three oc5’s daily and gabapintin 3x daily and had mild relief.. After the 4th year I had a neck M.R.I and head. Bingo,,c4 compressed root,c6 comprresed root c7 t1 thecal sac compression,,c4and 5 severe right sided stenosis with uncomfortable spurring. Legs and arms and back of thumbs and forearms numb and annoyingly paiinful..taking xararto for a,fib,been in cardiac arrest and had a quad bypass. Fron the bypass I have a midline henia,subxizion that is approx. 5 centimeters. Both Roto cuffs are torn also..I was told I may need 6 surgeries but the heart doctor won’t give the green light.. So narcotics and nerve Rx’s and blood thinners are what I take.I am an electician so exercise just on the job requirements helps too. No pain no gain or brains ..Good luck to you all out there

  10. Cindy Schmidler says

    Chest pain can be a serious symptom of a variety of illnesses, please see your primary care physician for a more accurate diagnosis.

  11. I have scoliosis at T 6 – T 7
    now i have developed Chest pain that is present every time and increased by movement and coughing
    Is this because of scoliosis

  12. I would just like the names of the cervical nerves, but I can’t find the answer ?¿?

  13. Jennifer davis says

    Nerve blocks last for how long

  14. Shivam Vishwakarma BPT says

    If you. Have any nearest physiotherapist .you go on there and take treatment according to the therepist

  15. Rana Muhammad Ali says

    i m patient of T1W1, T2W2, L4 and L5-S1. accordingly to the MRI Lumbosacral Spinal shows these diagonisis. Doctor has advised me to strict bed rest for almost three months with medicines i.e. Methycobol Inj 1ampule after one day, caflm 50 tab 1+1, and Gablin 75mg 1+1. Kindly suggest any health implication if i could not recover from the said disease within stipulated time as stated above.

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