Nerve Flossing

Are you suffering from irritated nerves, causing pain in your shoulders and back?  If so, you should try gentle yoga and their so-called nerve flossing practice. This practice relieves pain with movements called nerve glides. 


A Gentle Way to Achieve Pain Relief: Nerve Flossing

pinched nerves tensed sore muscles woman need gentle yoga nerve flossing to reduce pain

Nerve flossing is a term you’ll hear often when it comes to gentle yoga sequence exercises or hatha yoga. The goal of nerve flossing is to treat irritated nerves1. This is often done with movements called nerve glides. At the same time, nerve flossing can also improve your range of motion and provide overall pain relief.

Often, those of us who work at desks for long hours, experiencing the accompanying strain and stiffness, will benefit most from gentle yoga that focuses on nerve flossing. The goal of nerve flossing exercises is to keep the muscles relaxed, use complementary deep breathing, and to go slowly — especially at first.

As you get started — whether you’re a beginner to yoga or have taken classes before — having a certified yoga instructor to guide you is a great help.

Overall, nerve flossing will tend to engage your somatic nervous system2. The somatic nervous system is:

… a component of the peripheral nervous system associated with the voluntary control of the body movements via the use of skeletal muscles. It is responsible for all the functions we are aware of and can consciously influence, including the movement of our arms legs and other parts of our body.

- National Center for Biotechnology Information3

Examples of Nerve Flossing

Here are two examples of gentle yoga sequence exercises that focus on nerve flossing and pain relief. Always speak with your doctor before doing any type of exercise.

It’s best to have a professional yoga instructor guide you through these steps for safety and best practices.

nerve cell in a blue background 3d illustration

Femoral Nerve Glide

For the femoral nerve glide, gentle yoga sequence lay on your stomach on a yoga mat. Bend your elbows and place your arms up near your head and on the mat, relaxing your forehead on your hands.

Now, slowly bend one of your legs up toward your buttocks, keeping your thigh on the mat. Slow the bend to a stop as you start to feel the pain in your femoral nerve.

At this point, simultaneously lift your head up (slowly) as you start to lower your leg back down to the starting position. Repeat several times, taking care to move slowly and carefully. Then, move to the other leg.


Cervical Nerve Glide

This is a good nerve glide if you have stiffness in the neck and upper back — a common occurrence for those who sit at a desk all day.

Start seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor in front of you and your back straight. Take your right hand and place it behind your lower back. Relax your arms and neck on both sides but maintain a good posture.

Take your left hand and place it on the top of your head and slightly over on the right side. Very slowly and gently, pull your head down and to the left until you feel a stretch on the right side of your neck, then stop. You should feel the stretch from the base of your skull to your shoulder and upper back. Hold for a few counts, release, and repeat.


Areas Where Nerve Glide Could Be Helpful

There are specific issues and areas where nerve flossing could be extra helpful. Sciatica is one of these. This is a nerve that goes along your spine, down the backside of your leg all the way down to your foot. You could experience pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve. Performing nerve flossing could reduce this pain.

Another issue is carpal tunnel syndrome, an issue often caused by sitting too much at a computer. This is recognized by a tingling feeling in your wrist and/or hand and fingers. The underlying issue here is compression of the nerves in your arm. Either the median or radial nerve. By performing a nerve glide for these nerves, you could reduce or completely eliminate the pain. 


Benefits and Things To Think About

There are a number of benefits that come with performing yoga. But there are also a number of things you should think about before and during the practice.


  • When performing Nerve flossing it is important that it is not painful. If you experience pain, stop right away.

  • You should ensure that before you start and during the exercise, that your muscles throughout the body are as relaxed as they can be, to avoid causing additional discomfort or injury.

  • As with any type of yoga, do not forget to focus on your breathing. Do long, deep breaths, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth

  • Do NOT overdo it right out of the starting block. Make sure you start slowly and adjust to your own pace and ability. Only perform a few repetitions to start with and once you feel more comfortable, then you can increase the intensity

Benefits of Nerve Flossing


Nerve Flossing: Frequently Asked Questions


What is nerve flossing?

It is a type of exercise with gentle movements to stretch irritated nerves in an effort to reduce pain and improve the range of movement. This is also known as serve gliding or neural gliding. Nerve flossing is most commonly used in a combination with additional treatments, to improve the chances of pain reduction and the chance of healing.


How often should nerve flossing be done?

You should try and do it several times each day, depending on what type of issues you are experiencing. If you are suffering from painful sciatica, perform a leg exercise for one leg at a time, perform several reps and do so a couple of times a day.

This type of pain is exactly what gentle yoga aims to improve. Each pose is slow and gentle, as the name implies. Movements are doable no matter where you are on your fitness journey.


How long does it take before nerve flossing treatments start showing results?

It is individual from person to person and what type of issues you are suffering from. But you should experience less or reduced pain within a few weeks from starting the exercises. As you progress, the exercises should be extended so each session is a bit longer than the next. The same goes for stretching where you should push yourself further and further. However, it is important that you do so without feeling any pain. If you do, stop right away!


Do I have to visit a yoga studio to be able to perform nerve flossing?

No, you don't. The practice can be done online with the help of certified yoga instructors. You no longer have to look for a "yoga near me" as it is now just a few clicks away! Enjoy group online yoga classes or take advantage of private yoga lessons if you are looking for more guided instructions or where the instructor focuses on you, and you alone. 


Additional References


Nerve flossing done through gentle yoga is aimed for everyone suffering from back, shoulder, and neck related nerve pain. This could be pain caused by a sedentary job. Try it out and enjoy the results.
Keep your eyes open for the launch of Anahana Wellness Academy, where we will be launching our Yoga 101, covering several different styles of yoga!