How Does the Spinal Cord Work?

The brain and the spinal cord work together. The spinal cord is the link between the brain and the nerves in the rest of your body. The spinal cord helps you to move. It also allows you to feel hot and cold temperature, vibration, sharp and dull sensations, and to sense position of your arms and legs. When you move, messages travel from the brain down the spinal cord. Messages also are carried up the spinal cord to the brain to allow you to feel sensations. The spinal cord also helps in controlling blood pressure, heart rate, and the temperature of the body.

There are nerves that branch off the spinal cord. They are called spinal nerves. The nerves are divided into five main sections (from top to bottom): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and cocygeal. They help control bodily functions such as breathing, urination, and bowel movements. The spinal cord and nerves are very fragile. (Fig. 1)

Publication of this educational booklet is made possible in part by the generous support of the following sponsors:

  • Metronic
  • Stryker
  • DePuy Spine
  • Fraternal Order of Eagles