What is Neural Flossing?

Because neurological pain can be debilitating, any strategy that can safely and inexpensively reduce the severity of these symptoms of pain is welcome.  This is especially true for chronic pain.  Sufferers of chronic neurological pain desperately want strategies that are not overly dependant on medications and their side effects.  The strategies may include home based exercises, anti-inflammatory diets, wearing desensitizing clothing, yoga and life style modification.  A common and increasingly popular home based exercise named neural flossing targets a type of neurological pain called peripheral neuropathy.

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are diverse and can include numbness, pain, burning, muscle atrophy, muscle weakness and strange sensation running down your arms or legs, or localized to any part of your extremities.  The causes can range from metabolic, traumatic, auto-immune, infectious, cancer, toxicity, and mechanical.

As a nerve branch from the spinal cord and leave the relative safety of the spine, they travel through holes, tunnels, and grooves, they wrap around hard and soft tissues, and they pass through previously injured scared tissue.  As we move, it is normal and vital that nerves easily slide, elongate, become compressed, and rebound as they travel through all tissues.  If this dynamic fails, the nervous system will be vulnerable to inflammation, fibrosis, swelling, hypoxia, and altered function.  Altered function in turn may produce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.  This type of peripheral neuropathy is mechanically caused and may be helped by an exercise called neural flossing.

Neural flossing is a type of neural mobilization that attempts to restore the balance between the relative movement of neural tissues and surrounding tissues by reducing the intrinsic pressures between the nerve and its path.  The benefits of neural flossing are claimed to be improved nerve gliding, reduction of nerve adherence, dispersion of noxious fluids, increased neural vascularity, and improvement of pain.  Nerve function can improve.  At present, more studies are needed to validate this home procedure.

The nerves most commonly “flossed” are the ulnar, radial, and the median.  The sciatic nerve is also “flossed.”

Neural flossing involves gliding a stretched nerve through its path by alternating between two stretched positions.   For example, first,a person outstretches their arm and flexes their wrist while bending their neck toward the outstretched arm.  This position stretches one of the three major nerves traveling down the arm.  By maintaining this position, the nerve is stretched and remains immovable compared to its path.   Then the person bends their neck in the opposite direction while extending their wrist.  Nerve tension remains constant but the nerve now glides through its path due to a new body position.  The nerve slides through the tissues connecting the two endpoints breaking up adhesions and reducing mechanical compression.   The nerve flosses its path and theoretically breaks up “debris.”

Nerve flossing is usually an at home adjunct to be used in conjunction with a chiropractic visit that can also include a type of myofascial release, adjustments, and supervised exercise.

Please contact Dr. Jeffrey Linder of Bryant Park Wellness, NYC with any questions or comments.

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