fbpx

An Introduction to Nerve Flossing

Nerve flossing for median radial and ulnar nerves

Nerve flossing is a form of nerve mobilization that helps to mobilize and stretch specific nerves to reduce irritation and improve range of motion. This is done through a variety of specific exercises that increases both strength and flexibility.

Nerve flossing is important as it can help: 

  • Increase range of motion 
  • Reduce damage to nerves 
  • Improve strength and flexibility
  • Relieve pain 
  • Release nerve tension 

Several common conditions may benefit from nerve flossing exercises, including carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis and muscle strains. 

An introduction to nerve flossing (from Woodstock chiropractor Dr. Allin)

Nerve Flossing Exercises 

Nerve flossing techniques aim to move the nerve along its distribution by lengthening or shortening the path that the nerve must travel. Nerve flossing arm exercises target the median, ulnar, and radial nerves through nerve tensioning and nerve gliding. When these nerves are irritated, they can produce symptoms like numbing, tingling and weakness down to the fingertips. 

Two Types of Nerve Flossing Exercises

  1. Nerve Gliding

Nerve gliding exercises encourage the nerves to glide normally as you move your joints. Typically this is done by pulling the nerve from one end and shortening it from the other end. 

  1. Nerve Tensioning

Nerve tensioning entails tensioning one end of the nerve while simultaneously releasing tension on the other end. The repetitive motion aims to release adhesions that have developed along the nerve. Typically this is done by stretching the nerve from both ends. 

The type of exercise that you need to perform will depend on the condition needed to be treated. For example, nerve flossing carpal tunnel exercises target the median nerve that passes through the neck. It is recommended to start with gliding exercises and slowly work towards tensioning exercises. These exercises are simple, do not require equipment and can easily be done at home. 

Median Nerve Flossing

The median nerve helps you move your forearm, wrist, hand and fingers. The nerve originates from the neck and passes through the front of the shoulder into the armpit and down into the hands. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common conditions that affect the median nerve. Signs include numbness and tingling in the palm of the hand and the thumb, index or middle finger. 

To determine if this exercise is for you, reach your palm out straight out away from you and press. If you feel symptoms (numbness/tingling in the palm of the hand and the first three fingers), that confirms that this exercise is in fact for you. 

Steps for Median Nerve Gliding Stretches 

  1. Stand up straight 
  2. Place the arm to be stretched to the side of your body 
  3. Press the arm forward with the palm facing upward
  4. Bring the palm towards your ear and look away 
  5. As you look away it is good to side bend and drop the ear to the shoulder 
  6. Hold the position for two seconds
  7. Repeat 10 times 

The median nerve gliding exercises are stretching the nerve from the hand as we lessen the stretch from the neck and vice versa. It works by pulling the nerve in one direction and then pulling the nerve in the other direction. 

It is normal to feel numbness or tingling while doing this exercise. If the symptoms persist 5-10 minutes after the exercise, then you might have pushed too hard or done too many repetitions. Make a note of this and next time reduce the number of repetitions, time hold and pressure. 

Steps for Median Nerve Tensioning Stretches 

  1. Stand up straight 
  2. Place the arm to be stretched to the side of your body 
  3. Press the arm forward with the palm facing upward
  4. Look away 
  5. Hold the position for two seconds 
  6. Repeat 10 times 

This exercise is much more intense and you are going to feel it in the neck and into your fingertips. If you don’t feel anything, that means this exercise is not for you. 

This exercise will start with approximately 10 repetitions working up to 30 repetitions. Every time you do this exercise, you can add three-five additional repetitions. 

Flossing the Median Nerve


Ulnar Nerve Flossing

The ulnar nerve transmits electrical signals to muscles in the forearm and hand. The ulnar nerve is more commonly known as the funny bone. It starts up in the lower part of your neck, passes through the collarbone, goes under the peck bone through the armpit and wraps around the bone in the elbow down to the wrist. 

If you experience numbness or tingling in your pinky finger and ring finger, then this is the right exercise for you. 

Steps for Ulnar Nerve Gliding Stretches

  1. Stand up straight 
  2. Put your index finger on top of your thumb to create tension in your pinky and ring finger
  3. Lift the heel of your hand upwards to your shoulder 
  4. Lift elbow up 
  5. Rotate head away 
  6. As you come down, look down at the elbow 
  7. Hold for 2 seconds and then release
  8. Repeat 10 times 

Steps for Ulnar Nerve Tensioning Stretches

  1. Stand up straight 
  2. Put your index finger on top of your thumb to create tension in your pinky and ring finger
  3. Lift the heel of your hand and your elbow upwards to just above your shoulder
  4. As the elbow comes up, rotate your head and tuck it away 
  5. Hold for two to five seconds 
  6. Come down 
  7. Repeat 10 times 

While you are doing these exercises it is normal to feel the symptoms increase. If you experience a lot of tingling or numbness, reduce the number of repetitions and hold and add more repetitions each time. 

Nerve flossing for the Ulnar Nerve

Radial Nerve Flossing

The radial nerve travels from the lower part of the neck through the armpit down the back of the arm to the hand. It travels down the arm and supplies movement to the triceps muscle at the back of the upper arm. 

If you have pain shooting down the back of your arm or experience numbness, then radial nerve flossing is for you. 

Steps for Radial Nerve Gliding Stretches

For this exercise, we are going to stretch on one side and shorten on the other. 

  1. Stand up straight with your arm down at your side 
  2. Form a waiter’s tip hand where you take your hand and put your palm behind you
  3. Curl your fingers 
  4. Look for your hand 
  5. If you don’t feel a lot of stretch, bring your arm outward 
  6. Bring the hand/arm forward 
  7. As the hand comes forward and you bring it up toward your cheek, you are going to look away 
  8. Hold the position for 2 seconds
  9. Repeat 10 times 

To intensify this exercise, you can curl your fingers deeper and pull your arm out and away. It is normal to feel symptoms while doing this exercise but if they persist more than 5-10 minutes after completion, you may have aggravated the nerve by performing too many repetitions or applying too much intensity. 

Steps for Radial Nerve Tensioning Stretches

  1. Stand up straight with your arm down at your side 
  2. Form a waiter’s tip hand where you take your hand and put your palm behind you
  3. Curl your fingers 
  4. Rotate the head away 
  5. Tilt the head down 
  6. Hold the position for 2 seconds
  7. Repeat 10 times 

Flossing the Radial Nerve

What Should Nerve Flossing Feel Like?

 

It is normal to experience symptoms (i.e. numbness or tingling) while performing nerve flossing exercises. However, you should not feel pain when there is no stress or stretch on the nerve. The general rule of thumb is that five to ten minutes after the exercises are completed, symptoms should subside. 

If you feel lasting pain or ongoing symptoms after the nerve flossing exercises, you may be doing too many repetitions or too aggressively. Making note of how you feel can help determine how many repetitions you should be doing when performing the exercise and at what intensity. 


Click here to learn more about chiropractor Dr. Chris Allin at our Woodstock IL location.

{Note: This content is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your healthcare provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials.}
The Evolve Chiropractic Team

The Evolve Chiropractic Team

We're a team of experts in the field of chiropractic treatment and we're dedicated to fostering incredible levels of health and well-being. What do you want from your Chiropractor?

Leave a Reply

About Evolve Chiropractic

Evolve Chiropractic is leading the way for modern, evidence-based chiropractic care.  With 10 locations through Chicagoland and Northern Illinois, we have become the go-to solution for headache relief, neck & back pain and overall spinal health.

Recent Posts

Follow Us

Evolve Health Knowledge & Tips:

Looking to Get Started? check out the $21 New Patient Special