Nerve Slides for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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Nerve slides are non-exertion, non-resistance motion exercises which help lessen nerve entrapment. These simple exercises are useful in treating upper extremity nerve compression syndromes caused by scar tissue encasement. Thoracic outlet syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cubital tunnel syndrome are conditions which can be helped with the use of nerve slide exercises.

Nerves are positioned between and through muscles on their course from the spinal cord to their destination in the extremities. The nerves in the upper extremity may become impinged along their course and elicit symptoms such as:

  • Woman with neck Painpain
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • burning
  • lack of motion
  • muscle atrophy
  • heaviness
  • coldness
  • swelling
  • changes in reflexes.

The most common upper extremity nerve entrapment syndromes are often caused by repetitive motions and static positioning. These conditions include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS): Compression of the medial nerve at the wrist inside the carpal tunnel.
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: Impingement of the ulnar nerve in the cubital tunnel of the elbow.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS): Entrapment of a network of nerves called the brachial plexus and its accompanying blood vessels either between two neck muscles, under the collar bone, or under the pectoralis minor muscle in the upper lateral chest.

As nerves run between the muscles, the muscles and nerves normally slide smoothly over each other. When the nerve is impinged, this fluid sliding motion ceases to exist as scar tissue formation begins to encase the nerve to the surrounding tissues at multiple locations.

The gentle sliding motion of nerve slide exercises re-establishes correct motion between the nerves and surrounding muscles by decreasing the scar tissue formation that traps the nerve.

Nerve slides, or nerve glides, can be performed every day throughout the day. They may be used for preventive measures, new symptoms, or chronic cases.

  • Instituting nerve slides during short breaks from repetitive motions and static positions may be effective in preventing upper extremity nerve entrapment.
  • Implementing nerve slides as self-treatment for newer cases should help lessen symptoms and prevent further damage by lessening the areas and level of scar tissues formation.
  • Utilizing nerve slides in chronic cases may be effective due to the releasing of pressure of multiple areas of nerve encasement.

Nerve slide exercises work by moving the limb from a position where the nerve is on it shortest path to a position where the nerve is on its longest path. Nerve slides are simple, easy exercises which should be executed slowly with control and precision through a pain-free range of motion.

Start at an appropriate number of repetitions for you and gradually increase until you can easily perform 5 to 10 repetitions daily of each exercise. Count one complete starting point to finishing point and back to starting point cycle as one repetition. If pain or symptoms are elicited or increased, decrease the number or repetitions or switch to another nerve glide exercise.

Nerve Slide Exercises
Brachial Plexus Nerve Slides:
Thoracic outlet syndrome results from pressure on the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the neck and shoulder that transmits nervous system communication between the spinal cord and the upper extremity.

Use these two nerve slides if you experience nerve entrapment symptoms in the upper extremity.

Brachial Plexus Slide 1

  • Stand up straight.
  • Tilt your head to one side, hold your upper arm by your side and bend your elbow.
  • Make a light fist and tuck in under your chin.
  • Straighten your elbow and fingers, and raise your arm out to the side until it is parallel to the floor and your palm faces the floor.
  • Bend your wrist upward toward the ceiling, and splay your fingers.
  • Reach your arm backward as far as possible, and bend your head to the opposite side.

Brachial Plexus Slide 2

  • Stand in good posture with your elbow bent to 90º and your palm facing upward.
  • Flex your wrist toward you and tilt your head in the direction of the shoulder of the bent arm.
  • Untilt your head and straighten your elbow and wrist until your arm hangs by your side.
  • Raise your arm to shoulder height and slightly behind you.
  • Turn your shoulder so your palm faces skyward, tilt your head toward your raised shoulder, and bend your wrist downward.
  • Tilt your head away from your raised arm, and simultaneously bend your wrist upward.

Nerve slides are simple, effective self-treatment exercises that can be used to decrease the source and symptoms of upper extremity nerve compression. Restore proper nerve flow by re-establishing fluid motion between the nerves and their surrounding tissues with the use of nerve slide exercises.

Utilize nerve slide movements in conjunction with conservative treatments such as chiropractic care, stretching, massage, yoga, and GYROTONIC. Combine these treatments with proper work station ergonomics, frequent microbreaks from static positions, and proper nutrition to prevent and lessen scar tissue formation from being the source of your nerve impingement.

Updated on: 03/22/16
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Mitchell F. Miglis, DC
This article was reviewed by Mitchell F. Miglis, DC.
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