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 the body.

What does the spinal cord allow the body to do?

  • Move
  • Feel hot and cold temperature, vibration, sharp, and dull sensations
  • Sense the position of your arms and legs
  • Control blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature
  • Control bodily functions, such as breathing, urination (peeing), and bowel movements

When the body moves, messages travel from the brain down the spinal cord. Messages also are carried up the spinal cord to the brain so a person can feel sensations.

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 coccygeal. The spinal cord and nerves are very fragile.

Spinal nerves drawing
Last reviewed: 
March 2018

Interested in using our health content?