Nerve Flossing for Sciatica Relief

Nerve Flossing for Sciatica Relief

Have you heard about nerve flossing for Sciatica Relief? It’s one of those things that almost has been forgotten in time. It was prominent in the US for a while, and now you don’t see hardly anyone talking about it. Although it’s not at the height of its popularity, nerve flossing can be used to get some relief from sciatic pain.

This came back up here in our offices because we had a patient asking about how they were having pain down one of their legs when the disc herniation we saw on the MRI was on the other side. It has been challenging to explain what’s happening regarding irritation inside the spinal canal, but the quick answer is that it’s something called friction radiculitis. What happens is when you have anything inside the canal, so here we have two vertebrae. In between the vertebrae, you have the disc showing that a disc injury has occurred, the outer annular fibers have cracked open, and what they’re doing is now the nuclear jelly is squishing backward towards the spinal canal. One of those things it causes is pressure and snagging to the nerve root. When there’s compression to that nerve root, you feel sciatic pain that goes down your legs. When you’re talking about friction radiculitis, what’s happening is that the disc herniation is on the right side because it’s causing some pressure on the right side. Every time the nerve stretches on the left side, it gets caught and snagged on the framing, which is the opening for the nerves and how it gets out.

Now, this brings up the next point about nerve flossing. This is important. Nerves stretch quite a bit. They can stretch up to about 15% of their length again. If you were to stretch your hamstring right now, like kick your leg all the way out, stretch your hamstring, it is stretching that nerve out through the spinal canal. When you do that, there’s a displacement on the opposite side. You’ll get some pain because there’s that friction radiculitis, but we will use that to our advantage here in just a second. The sciatic nerve comes from L4, and it goes all the way down to S3. All these nerves come out of your spine and form together to form your sciatic nerve underneath your glute. From there, that nerve divides again into several different nerves that go down into your foot. What happens is when you’re feeling sciatica often if you’re under 60 years old. The most common cause is disc herniation, but it’s stenosis if you’re over 60 years old. Stenosis is when those openings narrow and close, and it can be from arthritis instead of something like a disc herniation.

When we’re doing this nerve flossing, we will use those nerve roots coming together to form that sciatic nerve to our advantage. What nerve flossing is going to do is pull up our spinal cord. We will use that to our advantage here to try and free up the nerves so that we don’t get that friction radiculitis. Here is precisely how we’re going to perform this nerve flossing. We’re going to kick our leg all the way out. We’re going to point our toes back towards us, and we’re going to look at the ceiling. And then slowly, we will look down and point our toes down forward. We’re pulling this nerve root into the area where it can come out freely, and it’s not being pinched and compressed inside that neural foramen. When we’re looking down and pointing our toe down, we push it back down. We literally stretch that nerve and floss our spinal cord straight through the spinal canal and that nerve root opening. You want to do this very slowly and controlled. If you’re trying to do this too fast, like ballistically, looking down and going fast, you’re just going to create more friction radiculitis and cause more pain.

You want to do this very slowly each time you do it when you look up and point your toes back, and then go to toes down and chin down to take you about five seconds. It’s a very slow, controlled motion. But as you’re doing that slow, controlled motion, you should feel a stretch going on through your nerves. If you already have a spinal cord injury, if you already have a disc herniation, or if you know that you have stenosis, I recommend that you do this with your physical therapist, medical doctor, or chiropractor first because it could be causing some extra pain. You may want to have that conversation with them to help guide you through this procedure. But it’s very safe to do, and you can start with just ten repetitions, five seconds each. The whole thing would only take you about 50 seconds. You can work your way up so that you’re doing 50 repetitions, five seconds each, which still only takes a couple of minutes, and it should help to reduce how much irritation you’re having through that spinal cord. It’s better to do this in a seated position just because you’re already starting with some load on your spinal cord, but you can also do this lying down. So, if you’re laying down, you’re going to kick your leg all the way up, point your toes back to you, look up at the ceiling, and then again go down so that your chin looks down your toe points down. This is a fantastic stretch. You can find many videos about this, like the older nerve and a couple of the other upper extremities where you’re stretching that nerve out. Sometimes stretching that nerve can give you much relief instead of irritation. So, I highly recommend that you try this if you suffer from sciatica or have any nerve root kind of radiculitis or pain.

About Dr. Merrill

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Dr. Andrew Merrill is a passionate active clinician and owner of Nightlight Chiropractic Orlando where him and his team treat hundreds of patients each month. With a strong background in exercise science from Stetson University, clinical skills from Palmer College of Chiropractic, and continued postdoctoral training in spinal disc injuries and clinical nutrition, Dr. Merrill is very well versed in the healthcare landscape. With topics ranging from "what to do for common ailments" to "why the medical system is failing you" Dr. Merrill and this blog in particular aim to keep readers up to date on what the research shows and how you can put it into practice NOW to keep yourself healthy for a lifetime.