A damaged nerve may cause pain, paralysis, paresthesia or an alteration in perception in any of the five senses. The effects will depend on which nerves are damaged and treatment is adjusted depending on the site.

Nerves are divided into those in the brain and spinal column, known as the central nervous system, and those on the outside of these areas, known as peripheral nerves. Every part of the body is innervated except for thickened skin, hair and nails, but very often their surrounding parts compensate by being extremely sensitive.

Nerves are further divided into motor and sensory, which control movement and sensation, respectively. A further subdivision is made in the motor nerves: those that are under our control and those that are not. The autonomic nervous system governs the beating of our heart, our non-conscious respiration, our involuntary bladder valves, etc. One may come across the terms sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, which are part of this system and act in opposition to each other. For example, the parasympathetic nervous system slows down the heart, whereas the sympathetic nervous system speeds it up. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are the most common catecholamines or neurotransmitters that affect the sympathetic and parasympathetic system in different ways. The ins and outs of biochemical control are complex and not particularly relevant when treating damaged nerves on a self-help basis.

Treatment must depend on the actual problem and, as always, the underlying cause of the nerve damage must be alleviated where possible. The principal causes are:

Direct injury – injury to a nerve may be partial damage or a partially or completely severed nerve.

Deficiency – The nerves are made up of proteins and specialized fats as well as vitamins and other nutrients; very common deficiencies are vitamin B12, folic acid and essential fatty acids.

Disease processes – multiple sclerosis, other sclerosing diseases, infections and metabolic disorders such as diabetes or hypothyroidism. Specific infections such as tetanus, polio and shingles are notorious for causing either pain or paralysis by damaging the nerves.

Toxicity – alcohol, drugs, smoking and agro-chemicals are all culprits. Lead, mercury, aluminium and, rarely nowadays, arsenic are all known to cause nerve damage and, interestingly, an excess of vitamin E may cause problems.

We are told by the orthodox world that nerves do not regrow. This is not strictly true and some nerve transmission may be reconstructed even in a completely severed nerve if the opposing ends are joined either naturally or by a surgical technique. More importantly, the body has the ability to grow new nerves or retrain other nerves to innervate the area that the damaged nerve has ceased to affect.