Spinal nerve
The term spinal nerve generally refers to a mixed spinal nerve
A peripheral nerve, or simply nerve, is an enclosed, cable-like bundle of peripheral axons . A nerve provides a common pathway for the electrochemical nerve impulses that are transmitted along each of the axons. Nerves are found only in the peripheral nervous system...

, which carries motor, sensory, and autonomic signals between the spinal cord and the body. Humans have 31 left-right pairs of spinal nerves, each roughly corresponding to a segment of the vertebral column
Vertebral column
In human anatomy, the vertebral column is a column usually consisting of 24 articulating vertebrae, and 9 fused vertebrae in the sacrum and the coccyx. It is situated in the dorsal aspect of the torso, separated by intervertebral discs...

: 8 cervical spinal nerve pairs (C1-C8), 12 thoracic pairs (T1-T12), 5 lumbar pairs (L1-L5), 5 sacral pairs (S1-S5), and 1 coccygeal pair. The spinal nerves are part of the peripheral nervous system
Peripheral nervous system
The peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord. The main function of the PNS is to connect the central nervous system to the limbs and organs. Unlike the CNS, the PNS is not protected by the bone of spine and skull, or by the blood–brain...



Each spinal nerve is formed by the combination of nerve fibers from the dorsal and ventral roots of the spinal cord
Spinal cord
The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular bundle of nervous tissue and support cells that extends from the brain . The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system...

. The dorsal roots carry afferent
Afferent nerve
In the nervous system, afferent neurons , carry nerve impulses from receptors or sense organs towards the central nervous system. This term can also be used to describe relative connections between structures. Afferent neurons communicate with specialized interneurons...

Sensory neuron
Sensory neurons are typically classified as the neurons responsible for converting external stimuli from the environment into internal stimuli. They are activated by sensory input , and send projections into the central nervous system that convey sensory information to the brain or spinal cord...

 axons, while the ventral roots carry efferent
Efferent nerve
In the nervous system, efferent nerves, otherwise known as motor or effector neurons, carry nerve impulses away from the central nervous system to effectors such as muscles or glands...

 motor axons. The spinal nerve emerges from the spinal column through an opening (intervertebral foramen) between adjacent vertebrae. This is true for all spinal nerves except for the first spinal nerve pair, which emerges between the occipital bone
Occipital bone
The occipital bone, a saucer-shaped membrane bone situated at the back and lower part of the cranium, is trapezoidal in shape and curved on itself...

 and the atlas
Atlas (anatomy)
In anatomy, the atlas is the most superior cervical vertebra of the spine.It is named for the Atlas of Greek mythology, because it supports the globe of the head....

 (the first vertebra).

Outside the vertebral column, the nerve divides into branches. The dorsal ramus contains nerves that serve the dorsal portions of the trunk carrying visceral motor, somatic motor, and sensory information to and from the skin and
muscles of the back. The ventral ramus
Ventral ramus
The ventral ramus supply the antero-lateral parts of the trunk, and the limbs; they are for the most part larger than the posterior divisions....

 contains nerves that serve the remaining ventral parts of the trunk and the upper and lower limbs carrying visceral motor, somatic motor, and sensory information to and from the ventrolateral
body surface, structures in the body wall, and the limbs. The meningeal branches (recurrent meningeal or sinuvertebral nerves)
Meningeal branches of spinal nerve
The meningeal branches of the spinal nerves are a number of small nerves that branch from the spinal nerve near the origin of the anterior and posterior rami...

 branch from the spinal nerve and re-enter the intervertebral foramen to serve the ligaments, dura, blood vessels, intervertebral discs, facet joints, and periosteum of the vertebrae. The rami communicantes contain autonomic nerves that serve visceral functions carrying visceral motor and sensory information to and from the visceral organs.

Some ventral rami merge with adjacent ventral rami to form a nerve plexus
Nerve plexus
A nerve plexus is a network of intersecting nerves. Except for the ventral rami of Th2-Th11 nerves, they combine sets of ventral rami of spinal nerves that serve the same area of the body into one large grouped nerve...

, a network of interconnecting nerves. Nerves emerging from a plexus contain fibers from various spinal nerves, which are now carried together to some target location. Major plexuses include the cervical
Cervical plexus
The cervical plexus is a plexus of the ventral rami of the first four cervical spinal nerves which are located from C1 to C4 cervical segment in the neck. They are located laterally to the transverse processes between prevertebral muscles from the medial side and vertebral from lateral side...

, brachial
Brachial plexus
The brachial plexus is a network of nerve fibers, running from the spine, formed by the ventral rami of the lower four cervical and first thoracic nerve roots...

, lumbar, and sacral
Sacral plexus
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Clinical significance

The muscles that one particular spinal root supplies are that nerve's myotome
In vertebrate embryonic development, a myotome is a group of tissues formed from somites that develop into the body wall muscle.Each myotome divides into a dorsal epaxial part and a ventral hypaxial part....

, and the dermatomes are the areas of sensory innervation on the skin for each spinal nerve. Lesions of one or more nerve roots result in typical patterns of neurologic defects (muscle weakness
Muscle weakness
Muscle weakness or myasthenia is a lack of muscle strength. The causes are many and can be divided into conditions that have true or perceived muscle weakness...

, abnormal sensation, changes in reflexes) that allow localization of the causeating lesion.
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