Purpose of Nerve Glides

What are nerve glides?

  • Nerve glides (also known as neural flossing or nerve stretching) are exercises that aim to restore mobilization of our peripheral nerves.  When a nerve is injured it won’t be able to glide normally through the surrounding sheath which can cause a sharp pain.  Similar to muscles, nerves can be stretched carefully to reduce this inflammation or compression and ultimately allow the nerves to glide normally.
  • The most common peripheral nerves affected are the median nerve, ulnar nerve, radial nerve, and the sciatic nerve.  The median, ulnar and radial nerve are located in the arms and the sciatic nerve starts in the low back and travels down the legs into the foot.
ulnar radial median nerve                sciatic nerve

How do I know if I injured a nerve?

  • Nerves can be injured very easily and it is usually pretty easy to tell when this has happened.  If you feel a sharp, shooting, stabbing, or numbing pain in the areas explained above, then there is a good chance that nerve is not gliding normally through its sheath.  This is usually caused by either the nerve being compressed or inflamed.  The most common reasons for a compressed or inflamed nerve is usually by injury or post-surgery.

Common conditions nerve glides are useful for:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common disease that can cause numbness or tingling in the hand and wrist due to increased pressure on the median nerve.  By using nerve glides specific to the median nerve, you can help alleviate some of the pressure and overall reduce pain in the wrist.  Below is an example of how to perform a nerve glide for the median nerve.

median nerve glid

Start with your arm up and out to the side with a straight elbow as shown.  Your palm should be facing upwards.  Next, bend your wrist upwards as you bend your head to the side away from the target arm.  Then, bend your wrist downward as you bend your head towards the side of the target arm.

Sciatica

  • Sciatica is a common disease that causes a sharp pain that starts from the lumbar spine and travels down either one or both legs.  This sharp pain is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve located around the L4 and L5 vertebrae.  Below is an example of a nerve glide exercise that can help reduce the compression on the sciatic nerve.

sciatic nerve glide

Start by lying on your back and holding the affected leg at your knee in the air.  Then, attempt to straighten your knee.  Lastly, hold this position and then bend your ankle forward and back as shown in the photo above.

These are just two common diseases that nerve glides can be affective for.  There many different injuries and diseases that nerve glides can help treat and rehabilitate.  There are also many different ways to preform these types of nerve glides so anyone can perform them.  So, if anyone is having discomfort and thinks it is due to a compressed/inflamed nerve come get physical therapy and we can help you out!