Nerve flossing is a type of gentle exercise that stretches irritated nerves. This can improve their range of motion and reduce pain. It’s sometimes called nerve gliding or neural gliding.

Nerve flossing tends to work best when combined with other treatments. If you don’t already have a diagnosis, check with your doctor first. Based on the underlying cause of your nerve pain, they can recommend the best treatment combination.

Before we go over specific nerve flossing exercises, here are some basic guidelines:

  • Nerve flossing shouldn’t be painful. If you start to feel pain, stop.
  • While doing nerve flossing exercises, try to keep your muscles relaxed.
  • Make sure you keep breathing while doing the exercises. Try to take long, deep breaths.
  • Start slowly and only do a few repetitions at a time until your body adjusts.

Your sciatic nerve is the main nerve that runs from your lower spine and down each leg. Sciatica happens when the roots of your sciatic nerve are compressed. Sciatica can cause:

  • numbness
  • tingling
  • weakness
  • radiating pain in your lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet

Research shows that combining nerve flossing with traditional physical therapy can effectively reduce sciatic pain. It may also improve range of motion in your hips.

Knee-to-chest stretch

  1. Lie on your back with a flat cushion under your head.
  2. Bend your knees, keeping your feet in line with your hips.
  3. Hold one knee with both hands and bend toward your chest. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Do the same with the other leg.
  6. Repeat three more times, alternating between your left and right leg.

Hamstring stretch

  1. Stand up straight and raise one leg onto a step or other stable surface. Keep your leg straight and toes pointing up.
  2. Lean forward while keeping your back straight. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Do the same with your other leg.
  5. Repeat three more times, alternating between your left and right leg.

Mobilizing stretch

  1. Lie on your back with a flat cushion under your head.
  2. Bend your knees, keeping your feet in line with your hips. Keep your chin tucked in.
  3. Bend one knee toward your chest. Support the back of your bent leg with both hands.
  4. Slowly straighten your leg, holding for 20 to 30 seconds. Try not to press your lower back into the floor.
  5. Return to starting position.
  6. Do the same with your other leg.
  7. Repeat three more times, alternating between your left and right leg.

Back extension

  1. Lie on your chest with your elbows bent and your palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push with your hands to arch your back. Keep your hips on the floor and your neck straight. You’ll feel stretching in your abdominal muscles. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Gluteal stretch

  1. Lie on your back with a flat cushion under your head.
  2. Bend your left leg at the knee and rest your right foot on your left thigh.
  3. Using your hands, pull your left thigh towards you. Keep your spine and hips straight. You’ll feel stretching in your right buttock.
  4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat with your right leg.
  6. Repeat three more times, alternating between your left and right leg.

Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve in your wrist is irritated or compressed. It tends to occur in people who do a lot of repetitive hand or finger movements. Nerve flossing might work best when done alongside traditional treatments.

To get started, find a firm chair. Sit up with your back and neck straight. With your arms at your side, bend your elbow at a right angle. Your thumb should be facing up. Then, hold each of these six positions with each hand for 5 to 10 seconds:

  1. Make a fist using all your fingers.
  2. Keep your wrist straight. Extend your fingers, keeping them together with your thumb to the side of your index finger.
  3. Bend your wrist and fingers back.
  4. Turn your hand so your palm faces up. Bend your wrist back, allowing space between your index finger and thumb.
  5. If you can, stretch your wrist a bit further.
  6. Hold this position while gently using your other hand to push your thumb out just a bit more.

Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that results from compression or irritation of the brachial plexus nerves in your upper arm and shoulder. Symptoms include:

  • numbness
  • weakness
  • pain in your arms, chest, or neck

While standing

  1. With your arms at your sides, shrug your shoulders backwards and up. Relax. Shrug your shoulders straight up. Relax.
  2. Extend your arms straight out to your sides at shoulder level. Keeping your elbows straight and palms down, raise your arms until the backs of your hands meet over your head.
  3. Face a corner of your room. With your elbows bent at about a 90-degree angle, place your palms flat on each wall at shoulder level. Tighten your abdominal muscles and bring your chest toward the wall as you breathe in. Then, push back and return to your starting position as you breathe out.
  4. With your arms at your sides and chin tucked in, bend your head to the right. Try to touch your ear to your right shoulder without moving your shoulders. Repeat with your left shoulder. Repeat 10 more times, alternating between your right and left shoulder.

While lying down

  1. Lie face down. Clasp your hands behind your back. As you breathe in, lift your head and chest as high as possible while squeezing your shoulder blades together and keeping your chin tucked. Hold for 3 seconds. You can also do this exercise while standing.
  2. Return to starting position as you breathe out.
  3. Lie down on your back with a rolled-up towel between your shoulder blades. Begin with your arms at your sides. Then, raise them up and straight over your head as you breathe in. Return to starting position as you breathe out.
  4. Repeat 10 more times.

Nerve flossing carries few risks, as long as you don’t push your body too far.

Make sure you start slow. Remember, these exercises shouldn’t hurt.

If you haven’t already, you should also work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing your nerve pain before trying nerve flossing. If you have more severe nerve damage, nerve flossing may make your symptoms worse.

Nerve flossing is a gentle way to soothe compressed nerves and regain your range of motion, especially when combined with traditional physical therapy. Just make sure you have a diagnosis from your doctor to make sure you don’t end up making your symptoms worse.