Nerve stretches physiotherapyBy Nigel Chua
You may have heard about stretching your muscles when your muscles are sore and tight, but have you heard about nerve stretching?
First of all, what is nerve stretching?
Do we need to stretch our nerves? Why?
And how do we even stretch our nerves?
Nerve stretches do not really ’stretch’ the nerves per se, but these nerve stretching exercises aim to improve the glide and movement of the nerves through the joints and muscles by improving their ability to slide and glide.
Nerves, much like our muscles, can also become tight due to
- staying in a position for too long (postural)
- tightening of muscles around the nerves (muscle shortening or tightness or injuries).
Nerve stretches can help to reduce any nerve tightness which will help to relieve pain that is associated with tight nerves. There are some simple nerve stretches that you can perform on your own for the nerves in your arm.
They are as follows:
MEDIAN NERVE STRETCH
Our median nerve is the nerve that runs along the palmar (top) side of our wrist and can sometimes be compressed in the wrist resulting in a hand and wrist condition called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
Patients who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome usually report tingling or numbness in the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger on the affected side.
To stretch your median nerve
- Place your open palm on the wall, with your finger tips pointing away from your trunk and parallel to the floor.
- Rotate your trunk away from the wall, keeping the elbow straight, and feel the stretch in your arm and forearm.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
RADIAL NERVE STRETCH
Patients who have radial nerve tightness may experience
- pins and needles
- pain on the upper arm, elbow and outside half of the thumb.
To stretch out the radial nerve
- Clasp your hands palm to palm, keeping the arms facing inwards with elbows straight, and lift the hands overhead.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
ULNAR NERVE STRETCH
The ulnar nerve is also commonly known as the “funny bone” nerve.
Prolonged gaming can sometimes stress the ulnar nerve and cause pain at the wrist.
To stretch the ulnar nerve
- Place your thumb and index finger together to form a circle, while keeping the other fingers straight.
- Place your straight fingers, palm up, around your chin and bring your “circle” up to your eyes to form a mask.
- Return to starting position and repeat.
SCIATIC NERVE STRETCH
Sitting for long periods can sometimes cause the sciatic nerve (located at the back of our hamstrings, the muscle behind your thigh) to tighten up.
The nerve runs from the lower back, down the leg, to the foot. A person with tight sciatic nerve can experience
- pins and needles anywhere along the length of the sciatic nerve.
To stretch the sciatic nerve
- Lie on your back facing up, hug one knee to the chest by holding the thigh under the knee.
- Straighten the knee to about 90-100 degrees and lift the lower leg towards the ceiling.
- Bend your ankle and point up and down 10 times before returning to the start position.