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Episode 239: Shoulder Pain Nerve Flow Part 1

Video Highlights

- Three fast fixes
- Step by step instructions
- Variations to mobilize each nerve with nerve glides

Today we’re going to talk about the neck nerves and fast fixes for shoulder pain — part one.

If you’re involved in any athletic pursuit, fitness pursuit, or life, one of the things that you’ll probably eventually deal with is shoulder pain.

What we’re going to do today is we’re going to look at three fast fixes for shoulder pain, and what we’re going to do is we’re going to focus on different nerves.

If you’re unfamiliar with human anatomy, basically whenever we deal with the arm and the shoulder, hand, etc., the nerves that supply that area leave from the neck … Part of the neck called the brachial plexus.

There are specific ways to mobilize these different nerves.

Now, in previous blogs, I’ve shown these in different ways and different forms but what we’re going to do today is a little bit of a flow where we’re going to move from one to the next as I explain it.

Now, the reason we’re going to do this in part one, and then next week, we’ll do part two is there are a lot of nerves.

You have to have a lot of different very specific exercises in order to take care of these.

Now, the deal here is that at first, you need to assess your shoulder.

Let’s say I’m having right shoulder pain. You want to get an idea of when and in what range of motion and in what speed of movement you feel that pain. If this is painful here, great, you know that.

What we want to do is we want to reassess your shoulder after each of the exercises and see if one of the movements specifically is good for you and once you find that out, then you can do it multiple times a day and hopefully get back to throwing a football or hitting a tennis serve or whatever it is that you want to do. All right.

So what we’re going to do is give warnings first.

When you do these neuro-mobility exercises, nerves are very sensitive to being overstretched, so you want to go slowly. You want to go carefully. When you do these nerve glides or neuro-mechanic drills, or whatever you want to call them correctly, you’re going to feel a little bit of tingling in most cases or this weird stretching sensation that maybe you’ve not felt before unless your arm has fallen asleep.

What you will do is as you’re doing the drill, I want you to keep the level of tension and stress that you’re applying at a level three out of 10. Three out of 10.

That means very, very minimal in the beginning because if you have issues here, and I’m not working with you, I don’t know how these are going to affect you so you have to go slowly and you have to be careful.

All right, so step number one, the median nerve glide

The first exercise is called the median nerve glide. When we do this exercise correctly, we’re going to feel it in our thumb, our index finger and our middle finger.

You’re going to stand nice and tall. Imagine that you got a ball on your head, you’re pushing that up to the ceiling. We want to get a little bit of lengthening in your neck. Now, you’re going to take your hand, rest it by your side, spread your fingers, pull your fingers up toward the ceiling.

This is called wrist extension, all right? Now, next, you want to fully lock your elbow. You now want to, from your shoulder, rotate your arm all the way out to the side so basically you’re pointing your fingers toward the back wall behind you.

Now, from here, you may already be feeling some tingling in your fingers. If you are, you can stop here and just do some basic motions, which we’ll show in just a second. Now, the next thing that we need to do to increase tension is to pull our shoulder blade down … That usually gets it for most people … Lift the hand out to the side. This is called shoulder abduction.

Then, we want to tilt our head away, because remember the nerves come from the neck.

Now here, we should be getting that three out of 10 tension. We’re going to lift the shoulder blade, take the tension off, pull the shoulder blade down, put the tension on. Off, on, off, on.

You can also hold the shoulder blade down and do small circles if you specifically feel problems in your wrist, but as I said primarily in the shoulder, you can either do what is called wrist flexion extension or if your main problem is the shoulder, you can just turn the shoulder in and out.

Basically, we’re going to tell you to move the areas of the body where you have the most discomfort currently. We do that for three to five repetitions, either of pumping the shoulder blade, turning the arm in and out, or flexing and extending the wrist.

You’ll retest your shoulder now. See how it feels.

All right, that is called a median nerve glide.

Man training his shoulders with dumbbells at an outdoor training park.

Now, exercise two. We’re going to go what’s called the radial nerve glide.

The radial nerve glide is for the tricep area so whenever you do this one correctly, you’re going to feel this tingling sensation running down your tricep and usually also down into your forearm.

Again, nice and tall, pushing the ball up to the ceiling. What we’re going to do with our arm by our side is we’re going to reach across our palm with our thumb first. Reach across with the thumb.

Now, you’re going to flex your wrist. Basically, with my palm facing the back wall, I’m going to pull my fingers up toward the ceiling, so I’ve now flexed my wrist. Lock my elbow.

Now, I want to turn my arm in instead of out as in the previous exercise. As you do this, do not let your shoulder blade roll forward. Shoulder blade stays back, and you just turn the arm in.

Now, slowly lift the hand out to the side. Pull the shoulder blade down, tilt the head away. Again, you should be getting that sensation in the tricep and down in the forearm.

Now, we’ll just again pump using the shoulder blade. Lift it up, pull it down, up and down.

Another option again, turn the shoulder, or the humerus … That’s part of the arm … in and out while keeping the shoulder blade depressed. That will again allow you to mobilize that nerve.

Three to five repetitions, shake out any weird sensation.

Retest your shoulder.

Hopefully you’re hitting yourself in the head by now, and it’s pain-free. If not, time for exercise number three.

For our third one, we’re going to go to what’s called the ulnar nerve glide

For the ulnar nerve, we’re going to feel this in our little finger and our ring finger.

Now, we’re going to start in that nice, tall position pushing the ball up to the ceiling. We will now spread our fingers, pull our fingers up to the ceiling … Again, this wrist extension like this …

Now, from here we’re going to do something different. We’re going to imagine that we’re putting a tennis ball in our elbow and we’re going to pull it until we’re squeezing down on that tennis ball fairly tightly.

We’re then going to lift our arm until our humerus, our upper arm bone is parallel to the floor.

Now from here, pull the shoulder blade down and slowly start to take the elbow out to the side. As you do that, you’ll start to feel some tension in that little finger, ring finger.

In this position, tilt the head away and once again, pump that shoulder blade up and down is one option.

Another option is to be in this position and bring the arm in and out. All right?

As you do that, you can figure out ways to increase tension on that ulnar nerve.

Again, three to five repetitions.

Shake that out and breathe.

We’ve done median nerve glide, radial nerve glide, and ulnar nerve glide.

Very simple little exercises.

Now, what these are good for

Number one, if you have pain, you can use these for shoulder pain.

If you don’t have pain, but you have a restricted range of motion, they can also improve that.

If your shoulder is great and you’re just trying to make it stronger prior to doing pushups or bench press or pull-ups, or whatever.

They are also great what we call prime the pump exercises, or warmup exercises, prior to heavier activity.

As a reminder, you need to go slowly.

You need to keep the tension at three out of 10. Very, very gently.

Keep your repetition range low. Three to five repetitions of whatever you choose to use.

And again, most important, assess your shoulder, do the drill, reassess your shoulder, see if it helped.

This is set number one.

We’ll pick it up at set number two next week.

If you have any questions, let us know. Otherwise, good luck.

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