Nerve flossing is a specialized way of easing neural tension in different parts of the body. The process, also known as nerve mobilization, is sometimes required to mobilize entangled or hypersensitive peripheral and central nerves. These may occur due to overuse of muscles, poor posture and severe injuries. In such condition, nerves in the affected areas recoil leading to neural tension. Symptoms of neural tension include tingling, numbness, and pain in the affected region. The body responds automatically by contracting the muscles in the affected areas to protect affected nerves from further damages. The muscles, in turn, become short, tight and stiff depicting the poor condition of the nerves. Persistent and unattained neural tension can create several other physical problems that can affect myofascial system, problems in normal movements and joint problems etc. In this condition, medical experts often advise for nerve flossing to get rid of such painful and abnormal condition.

Undergoing necessary nerve flossing exercises along with some other physiotherapy and treatment process can help the affected person to resolve unrelieved painful conditions that have not been improved through other conventional therapy.

What is Nerve Flossing?

Nerve Entrapments

Everybody knows that nerves relay information from certain body point to brain or spinal cord and vice versa. Nerves are densely present everywhere. Nerves actually form a continuous system which are interconnected with each other and then with the brain and spinal cord. Nerves in human body are surrounded by soft tissues to protect them from external injuries. Every bit of movement of a person keeps the nervous system in constant tension. In some extraordinary condition, one or more nerves may get trapped within the surrounding tissues. This condition is called 'Nerve Entrapment'. This condition can cause pain, tingling, lack of sensation and muscle weakness. Pain may be continuous or when the patient tries to move.

What is Nerve Flossing?

Nerve Flossing refers to special exercising techniques that try to restore normal movement of nerves or mobilizes the nerves and surrounding soft tissues to alleviate neural tension. Nerve flossing exercises are advised not separately, but as a part of integrated treatment to restore a patients normal condition. Nerve Flossing can be used for any part of the body and the exercises helps in relieving the pain or discomfort experienced in that part.

How is Nerve Flossing Done?

Let us see how nerve flossing is used for different parts of the body and what the exercises are for releasing the neural tension of the part.

Nerve Flossing for Arms and Legs

The nerves of the arms and legs normally move and stretch quite freely and in different directions. Trapped nerves in arms and legs lead to chronic inflammation and pain. Sometimes the pain is felt continuously and sometimes it may surface while moving the hands and legs. To ease the nerves, neural flossing can be applied successfully.

Nerve flossing for the arm can be for three nerves – ulnar nerve, median nerve, and radial nerve. Nerve flossing is to be performed very carefully and gently, so that the patient doesn't feel any further pain. Ulnar Nerve Flossing for Arms: Patient needs to touch the index finger to the tip of the thumb while the other three fingers need to be stretched in the air. It would be like an 'okay sign'. Now, the hands with these finger positions are to be bought near the eyes. Position the hand in a way that the palm faces the ceiling. Now, place the three stretched fingers of both the hands under the chin like a stand (with two supports) for the chin and the "O" sign made with index and thumb to be placed around the two eyes like the glasses of a spectacle. At first, it would be a tough job, but after several attempts it will be an easy one.

  • Median Nerve and Radial Nerve Flossing for Arms: The affected hand is to be stretched out to the side at an angle of ninety degrees to the head. The palm should face upward towards the ceiling. Keeping the fingers straight, the palm is to be bent up and down from the wrist keeping it parallel to the head. In an advanced stage, the patient can do that exercise by bending the head to the opposite direction to the affected arm.
    For the radial nerve flossing, this same exercise is to be practiced, but this time the palm should face the ground. As you get used to the exercise, you can also try doing it the same exercise by placing the hand a bit back from the shoulder and follow the same pattern by facing the palm up and down.
  • Nerve Flossing for Legs: For performing nerve flossing for the legs, patient needs to sit on a low height chair with his affected leg stretched forward making a right angle with the body. The foot should be pointed upward. At this posture, the entire foot from the ankle needs to be pulled towards the body and push it back to the previous position again. This can be practiced 10-12 times at one sitting and the exercise can be practiced 3-5 times every day.

Nerve Flossing for Shoulder

Millions of people all over the world suffer from shoulder nerve entrapment. This leads to shoulder stiffness and pain. Nerve flossing can be effectively used to mobilize shoulder nerves or axillary nerves.

  • Nerve Flossing Exercise for Shoulder: The hands are to be kept straight downward touching the thigh with the palms facing outward. Now the head is to be bended on the opposite side of the affected shoulder as much as possible. At first for a few days, it may be painful but later it would be eased. Then the target would be to touch the opposite shoulder with the ear. After bending it to the opposite side of the affected shoulder, the head is to be taken to the normal position for a few seconds and again to be bended to the affected side to touch the shoulder.

Nerve Flossing for Sciatica

Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in human body. It passes through the back of both thighs, calf and ends at the foot. It is bifurcated below the knees, which are known as Tibial nerve and Fibular nerve. Sciatica is a typical type of pain which occurs when any part of the nerve gets entangled in its path. Sciatic nerve floss can be applied to treat sciatica pain.

  • Nerve Flossing Exercise for Sciatica: The patient needs to sit on a low height chair or stool with a straight posture and two legs resting on the floor. The affected leg is to be pulled up as much as possible but not more than ninety degree to the rest of the body. At this position, the foot should point upward. Then the foot is to be moved forward (towards the body) and backward (away from the body) 5-6 times with the rest of the body from the waist (the seated part) stretched backward at an angle of forty five degree to the shoulder. This is to be performed 3-4 sets at one go. It is always feasible to practice the same for both the legs for at least three times a day.
  • Nerve Flossing Exercise for Peroneal Nerve: Peroneal nerve or fibular nerve is the one of the two parts of sciatica nerve that is found below the knee joint. The patient needs to sit down on a low height chair like the previous posture. The patient then needs to stretch the leg vertical to the body and move the foot on left and right side with the head slightly postured backwards. The exercise should be practiced at least three times a day.

Nerve Flossing for Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis is the muscle in the hip region near the lower limb. Piriformis syndrome happens when this muscle experiences spasm and causes hip pain.

  • Nerve Flossing for Piriformis Syndrome: Sit in a chair keeping your foot flat on the floor. Now raise your leg at a ninety degree angle to the body while tucking your chin to the chest. Hold on for 2-3 seconds without hurting any further. Slowly lower your leg while moving your head up and looking towards the ceiling. Repeat for 15-20 times in a go and do it thrice daily.

Nerve Flossing for Femoral Nerve

Femoral Nerve is the largest nerve that arises from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Lumbar vertebrae in the spine and descends to the thigh through the psoas muscle and inguinal ligament. Femoral nerve entrapment can cause severe pain and weakness in the quadriceps or the thighs limiting movements.

    • Femoral Nerve Flossing Exercise: Femoral nerve flossing has 2 exercises. They are-
      • Exercise 1: Lie down on your chest in a half cobra posture to get a mild stretch around your waist muscle. Slowly, start moving your head up (towards the ceiling) and roll your head down towards the body. You need to now co-ordinate the movement with your leg. First, take your leg up and look up. As you take your leg down, roll your head down and tuck your chin in your chest. You can also do it by reversing the head and leg movement. Now, take your affected leg up, near to your hip while rolling your head down. As you take your leg down to the resting position, move your head up towards the ceiling. Repeat it for 15-20 times.
      • Exercise 2: Sit on your knees on the floor near to a wall. The distance between you and the wall should be of one hand so that you can take the support. If your right side is affected, then your left side must be towards the wall. Now, take your left leg forward and place it on the floor keeping the foot flat. Place your left hand on the wall. Move forward putting more body weight on the left leg. Raise the right hand up and bend towards the wall. This will stretch the psoas muscle and the inguinal ligament releasing the nerve entrapment. An alternative is, as you bend towards the wall, move your head backwards. This will give additional stretch to the area.

Nerve Flossing for Spinal Accessory Nerve

Cranial nerve XI, also called Spinal accessory nerve, present in the upper part of the neck, is responsible for delivering signals to and from the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscle. Irritation or entrapment of this nerve can result in pain of the lower frontal outside part of the neck, top portion of the shoulder, and/or chronic tight muscles of the neck.

  • Ways to do Nerve Flossing for Spinal Accessory Nerve: The affected hand is to be stretched forward with the palm in the posture of a fist. The entire hand up to the shoulder point is to be considered like a stick attached with the shoulder blade. The entire hand is to be pushed back without bending from the elbow keeping it straight like a stick and assuming it is attached with the shoulder blade only. It is to be kept in that position for a few seconds and then in the same posture the entire hand is to be placed in the previous position. While pushing the hand backward, the neck is to be pushed forward simultaneously and kept in that position for 2-3 seconds. The neck is to be kept in the normal position while returning back to the formal position. This cycle is to be practiced 4-5 times at one go and at least 5 times a day.


Nerves may entangle at any moment. These problems are quite common in sports persons. Daily commuters who regularly need to travel for a long time in crowded public transportations and workers who need to carry loads also face different types of nerve entrapments frequently. These people should visit orthopedics immediately who can advise them for nerve flossing exercises along with other treatments for early recovery. Individuals who aren't affected with nerve entrapments can also practice these exercises to keep the nerve passages in perfect condition and also to mitigate minor problems immediately.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: May 18, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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