The peripheral nervous system consists of a network of 43 pairs of motor and sensory nerves which connects the central nervous system (made up of the brain and spinal cord), to all parts of the human body.
The peripheral nerves are responsible for controlling important functions related to sensation, movement and motor coordination. They are fragile and can easily be damaged. If a peripheral nerve experiences a serious injury or trauma, surgical treatment may be required and thereafter rehabilitation.
Injury to the network of peripheral nerves can occur through:
- Lacerations (a cut / tear in the nerve tissue)
- Severe bruising (contusion)
- Gunshot wounds
- Drug injection injury
- Electrical injury
Traumatic injury to the nerves can lead to:
- Severe unrelenting pain,
- Burning sensation,
- Altered or total loss of sensation in the body part affected by the damaged nerve.
Treatment and Interventions:
The location and degree of nerve damage will determine the most suitable intervention. At Kings college hospital, a multidisciplinary team consisting of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Neurologists, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists will provide a range of surgical, medical and therapeutic interventions.
For mild motor nerve injuries, initial therapy involves patient education and protection of the joints, including the surrounding ligaments and tendons from further stress. Orthotics may be used to protect the joint and augment function.
For nerve injuries requiring surgical intervention, post-surgical rehabilitation is important to support and guide individuals back to maximum recovery. After the surgical procedure, individuals will be referred to occupational (hand) therapy for nerve injuries affecting the upper extremities and physiotherapy for nerve injuries affecting the lower extremities. The initial goals of postoperative therapy are to regain passive range of motion of the joints and soft tissues that have been immobilised. Individuals will be instructed in exercises to regain strength in the affected muscles, implementation of scar management for the surgical and / or trauma site, and in the later stages, sensory and motor re-education are recommended to maximise therapeutic outcomes.