The term neurodynamic mobilizations sounds long and complex. But, you can rather think of it as movement of your nerves. Some people call it ‘nerve stretches’, but technically nerves cannot stretch the same way muscles can. Neurodynamics is the ability of your nerves to slide and glide along or between other tissues without being pinched or trapped. Unfortunately, nerves can get irritated, squeezed or stuck somewhere along its path and that causes nerve pain. That is where neurodynamic mobilizations come in. It is a very valuable form of treatment for nerve pain.
What exactly is neurodynamics?
Let’s first look at the meaning of the word neurodynamics:
- Neuro is a term that is used to describe anything related to nerves or the nervous system.
- Dynamics is a term that describes motion of an object.
- If you put these words together to form neurodynamics, it means: movement of the nervous system in relation to itself and in relation to other tissues.
Movement in relation to itself
Your body is full of different nerves of different sizes and together with the brain and the spinal cord, it forms what we call your nervous system. They are all connected to each other and this whole system of nerves is flexible to move in different directions. So, if you stretch forward to touch your toes, the nerves in your limbs and spine move and stretch away from each other. With each movement of your body, different nerves are sliding and gliding in different directions to each other.
Movement in relation to other tissues
The nerves in your body also move separately to the rest of the tissue around it. Our bodies consist of different layers of skin, connective tissue, fascia, muscles and nerves. Some layers, like your skin and muscles, are more flexible than ligaments and joints. But, all these layers of tissue move in relation to one another. The tissue around nerves is called the mechanical interface and the nerve is supposed to be able to slide and glide freely in between this tissue. However, the mechanical interface is also the place where tension points form and here nerves tend to get stuck and pinched by the surrounding tissue.
Why we use neurodynamic mobilizations
The word mobilization means: to make something movable or capable of movement. In other words, neurodynamic mobilizations (also called nerve mobilizations or nerve flossing) is a treatment that involves movement of a nerve and the layers of tissue around it with the aim of improving its capability to move. It can also be used as an assessment technique to test the sensitivity of the nervous system.
Nerves are like an electrical system
Think of nerves as electric cables, supplying the electric current that keeps your body going. If you pull on an electric cable that is stuck on something, it won’t move any further. Pulling harder won’t help, you’ll simply damage the cable and then it won’t be able to properly conduct the electrical current. You’ll have to find the obstacle and remove it to release the tension on the cable.
We can compare nerve pain to this. Typically, nerve pain is caused by compressed, squeezed, pinched or irritated nerves. This can happen due to injury, degeneration or disease. It forms an obstacle or tension point which limits the mobility of the nerve to glide along mechanical interfaces. Just like an electric cable not conducting properly, your affected nerve won’t be able to conduct the impulses that it should. It leads to nerve pain, sensation changes (like pins and needles) or weakness.
Neurodynamic mobilizations, a versatile form of treatment
In an effort to relieve the tension or pressure on a nerve, we use neurodynamic mobilizations. It is a very effective technique that encourages normal mobility of nerve tissue and the surrounding mechanical interface. Neurodynamic mobilizations are very specific and each nerve is mobilized according to its anatomical pathway. Thus, it can be modified to your specific problem or pain.
The best part is that neurodynamic mobilizations can be used for any kind of pain, whether it is nerve pain, a muscle tear or a ligament sprain. It can even be used in the absence of pain! Actually, neurodynamic mobilizations can be done by perfectly healthy people as a way to encourage good nerve health and flexibility.