Pinched nerves might not be an extreme injury, but they’re definitely painful and annoying. This is caused when a nerve’s function is disrupted by muscles, tendons, surrounding tissue, or even bones putting undue pressure on said nerve. Luckily, pinched nerve exercises can help alleviate some of this discomfort and can be done by pretty much anyone. Read below for seven pinched nerve exercises you can try.
This is one of the best pinched nerve exercises targeting the shoulders. Start off by standing upright. Shrug the shoulders up and rotate backward in a circular motion. Once you’ve gotten back to the original starting point, reverse the motion, rotating the shoulders in a circular motion going forward. Do 2-3 sets of 15 reps each direction.
A quick word of warning – while you want to promote a healthy range of motion in the shoulders by moving them in the aforementioned circular fashion, only ever do this with free hands. In other words, don’t do your normal workout shrugs in the gym this way.
When shrugging while holding a barbell or dumbbells, keep the movement pattern vertical as rotating them in a circular motion with weight can put excessive strain on the rotator cuff. Treat this option only as a rehabilitation movement, doing it with no weight.
Targeting the nerves in your back, stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Keeping your legs relatively straight (don’t lock out the knees), bend forward such that you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Try to keep your torso somewhat straight so that you’re not only bending at the back. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 4-5 times.
It bears mentioning that any sort of static stretch (i.e. stretching a muscle to near its full extension, holding, then trying to stretch it some more) like this should be done with caution. Static stretches are best done with an elevated core temperature and blood having already been pumped to the muscle so as to avoid injury. If you are going to do them “cold”, then don’t push the stretch as hard or far so as to not pull anything.
This is not only an old school warmup, but a favorite on the list of pinched nerve exercises for the back. They’re just as simple as you remember to perform. Start off by standing upright with your hands at your sides. Gently lean to the left as far as you can without too much pain and until the muscles on the right side of your hips, lower back, and core start to tighten. Reverse the other direction. Do 2 sets of 4-6 slower reps each direction.
This works well for the pinched nerves in the shoulders and neck because you actively provide dynamic resistance and release. Start off by clasping your hands behind your head with your fingers interlaced with one another. If you think of how most people grab their head in old school fashion when doing a situp, that’s what you’re looking to do. The difference is that you’re standing or sitting upright instead.
Use your hands to pull your head / chin downward and to the right as you resist against them. The resistance you provide doesn’t have to be too hard, but it should be firm. Once your chin hits the bottom, hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds, then lessen the resistance slightly as you pull your head back to the starting position. Now repeat this same action, only going downward and to the left. Do 1-2 sets of 4-6 reps each direction.
It might seem weird to see cardio on a list of pinched nerve exercises, but it’s actually quite beneficial. It was said above that pinched nerves are caused primarily due to undue pressure being put on the nerve by surrounding tissue, muscles, etc. Aerobic exercise can help alleviate this as it promotes better blood flow. This, in turn, delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the nerve, which can potentially help it heal faster.
At the same time, if your cardio is low or no impact such as swimming or walking the movement may even help relieve some of the pressure around the afflicted nerve. This is because the increased movement can potentially engage muscles surrounding the nerve, causing them to release any tension they might be holding.
Speaking of swimming and low or no impact movements, water exercises can be quite beneficial. “Water exercises” are when you’re in a pool, completely (or at least mostly) submerged in water. You then do various movements, letting the water provide resistance.
There’s a wide variety of things you could do, ranging from simulating normal gym type exercises to simply moving your torso and limbs in all directions. The gentle, yet consistent resistance water provides from all angles facilitates loosening up as tight muscles are now forced to work simply just to get your body from the proverbial “point A” to “point B”.
Yoga is almost the perfect prescription for pinched nerves as its entire goal is to make the body more flexible and limber. It does this via different stretches, dynamic movements, static contractions to develop strength, and more. All of this could result in lessening tension being put on any pinched nerves.
There are various types of yoga out there. Some aren’t more than simple stretching. Others are more strength-based in that they involve holding difficult positions and providing dynamic resistance similar to what was described with the chin extension. And hot yoga can help loosen you up because your body is so thoroughly warmed up and as a result, much more pliable.
One type isn’t necessarily “better” than another. Similarly, going to classes, finding a teacher, or just using following along with a DVD or YouTube video all have their benefits. You’ll just need to try a few different options to see what works best for you. Just keep in mind that while yoga often has a “mental” side (meditation, mindfulness, etc), it’s the physical aspects you’re interested in. That doesn’t mean the mind relaxation can’t help you – it just means you’ll want to focus on how it affects your body, first.
Pinched nerves can be a literal pain to deal with. Luckily, there are many pinched nerve exercises you can do to lessen the pain and discomfort. Some directly target the hurting area like shoulder shrugs and chin extensions. Others, like yoga and aerobic cardio, are activities you can do to help facilitate healing, as well be healthy overall. Adding some of these to your routine should hopefully see you feeling less discomfort and enjoying life more.