Have you ever experienced persisting pain and muscle tightness that seem to be resistant to all forms of treatment? It may surprise you to know that the root cause of your symptoms may not be where the pain is localized, but rather in the mobility of the nerve that runs through that area. Nerve mobility restrictions can cause pain and discomfort to manifest in different parts of the body, and understanding its role in joint and muscle function is key to achieving proper and lasting relief.
Nerves are more than just wires
Nerves in the your body carry information back and forth from the brain to various parts of the body, including muscles and joints. When nerves are healthy, they glide smoothly and freely around the bones, muscles, and tissues that surround them. Some areas of our body tend to have less mobility of the nerves. This can be:
Where nerves branch
Areas where one nerve divides into more nerves create a region of poorer mobility. Examples of this include just above the back of your knee where your sciatic nerve branches into your tibial and peroneal nerves.
Nerves can pass through different types of tunnels. For example, nerves emerge from bony tunnels out of your spine and where they travel past your wrist into your hand at your carpal tunnel. Muscle tunnels include the region in your forearm that can lead to persistent outer elbow pain.
Certain lifestyle factors and medical conditions can cause them to become restricted in their movement, leading to symptoms like pain, muscle tightness, and reduced range of motion.
What else affects nerve mobility?
A variety of factors that can cause nerve mobility restrictions. Some of these include:
Another factor that can contribute to nerve mobility restrictions is muscle imbalances. When one set of muscles is stronger than another, it can lead to compensation patterns that place undue stress on certain nerves and structures. This can lead to nerve pain and muscle tightness, particularly in areas such as the hip, leg, and foot.
Your body heals with scar tissue. If the scar tissue formed in area of poor mobility, or there was a period where you were immobilized in a brace or cast, the healing scar may have restricted the movement of the nearby nerve. Past injuries don't have to be severe. Often small injuries along the path of the nerve go unnoticed until a seemingly small injury has a larger affect on pain and movement than you expect.
Chronic medical conditions
Chronic medical conditions such as peripheral neuropathy or arthritis can also cause nerve mobility restrictions. These conditions damage the nerves, leading to reduced mobility, which can result in pain and other symptoms. Diabetes is a common cause of peripheral neuropathy, while arthritis can cause nerve compression due to inflammation around joints. Chronic conditions can also include prolonged periods of stress.
One common cause of nerve mobility restrictions is poor posture. When your posture is poor, it can lead to compression of nerves in the neck, shoulders, and back, resulting in pain and muscle tightness.
All these factors cause tension and pressure to build up in the nerves, leading to adhesions and scars that can eventually limit your mobility and function.
How nerve mobility causes muscles tightness
When nerve mobility is restricted, the tightness and pain experienced often compound, creating a vicious cycle. A tight, restricted nerve can cause muscles to contract and become tense, further increasing its restriction. Consequently, the pain caused by the nerve can become much worse, perpetuating the cycle even further.
What can be done to improve nerve mobility
While nerve mobility restrictions can cause severe and persistent pain and muscle tightness, the good news is that such limitations can be improved.
One popular method of restoring nerve mobility is through physical therapy, which involves techniques like joint, muscle and fascial (connective tissue) mobilization, strengthening and stretches designed to increase strength and mobility in the affected area.
Nerve flossing exercises
One effective strategy is to practice nerve flossing exercises. These exercises involve gently moving the nerves through their full range of motion, promoting better mobility and reducing tension. There are a number of different methods to flossing, or fishing, the nerve through restrictions. They can involve techniques local to the source of symptom are far removed from it. The type of exercise, which body parts are involved, how often it's done and what symptoms are appropriate will vary depending on a variety of factors. Choosing a technique inappropriate for your condition can lead to a flareup of your symptoms. A physiotherapist with experience in assessing, treating and prescribing these exercises is the key to steady improvement.
Acupuncture and Dry Needling
In some cases, therapy may be combined with other holistic approaches such as relaxation, acupuncture, dry needling and massage therapy. These techniques are known to promote relaxation, reduce stress, improve flexibility, and increase blood flow, all of which contribute to restoring proper nerve mobility and function.
Nerve mobility restrictions can have a significant impact on your overall well-being, causing pain and discomfort in different parts of your body. By understanding the factors that can cause nerve restrictions, and taking steps to restore their proper mobility, you can enjoy lasting relief from joint and muscle pain.
When to get help
If you experience persistent pain or muscle tightness, it's always best to seek professional physiotherapy advice to establish the cause behind the symptoms and identify contributing factors that can be exacerbating it. From there, together with your healthcare provider you can discuss can recommend the right plan of therapy and interventions to help you regain optimal nerve mobility and function.