Peripheral nerves lie outside the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and extend to organs and limbs. The peripheral nervous system is not protected by bone like the central nervous system . That means peripheral nerves are exposed to toxins (poisons) and mechanical injuries.

The peripheral nervous system works as a vast communications network. It sends information from your brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to every other part of your body.

Peripheral nerves also send sensory information back to your brain and spinal cord. For example, they send messages that your feet are cold or your hand is burned. Damage to peripheral nerves and the peripheral nervous system interrupts these important connections.

Peripheral Nerve Disorders

There are many types of peripheral nerve disorders. They can affect one nerve or many nerves. They include:

Nerve entrapment

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Ulnar nerve entrapment (trapped nerve at the elbow), also called cubital tunnel syndrome

Traumatic nerve injury

  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Spinal cord injury 

Peripheral nerve masses (tumors)

  • Neurofibroma: Most common in people who have the genetic disorder neurofibromatosis.
  • Schwannoma: Nerve sheath tumors that can occur in people who don’t have another disorder. They can also occur in people who have neurofibromatosis or schwannomatosis.
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor: Very aggressive, cancerous nerve sheath tumors. They can occur in association with neurofibromatosis Type 1.
  • Disease: related peripheral neuropathy, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of Peripheral Nerve disorders

Symptoms of peripheral nerve disorders often start gradually and get worse. They include:

  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Burning or tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensitivity to touch 

Diagnosis of Peripheral Nerve Disorders

OHSU’s Nerve Center offers a wide range of neurodiagnostic (nerve diagnosis) services to evaluate your anatomy (structure of your body) and see if your brain, spinal cord, muscles, nerves and blood flow are functioning properly.

Our goal is to offer reliable and complete testing to help diagnose, manage and track your health condition. Learn more about diagnostic procedures

Treatment of Peripheral Nerve Disorders

Our treatment options are designed to treat any underlying problem, reduce pain and control symptoms. We often find that the sooner a nerve issue is addressed, the better the outcomes.